A detective enlists the help of a young Edgar Allen Poe to investigate a series of murders in The Pale Blue Eye. In 1830 West Point, New York, retired veteran detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called to the United States Military Academy, where he is tasked by the superiors Captain Hitchcock (Simon McBurney) and Superintendent Thayer (Timothy Spall) to investigate the murder of one of the cadets. Augustus is assisted in his investigation by Cadet Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling), an aspiring poet. With the murders seemingly ritualistic, Augustus seeks the advice of Occult expert Jean Pepe (Robert Duvall). As the case progresses, he begins to view Dr. Daniel Marquis (Toby Jones) and his family of wife Julia (Gillian Anderson) and children Artemus (Harry Lawtey) and Lea (Lucy Boynton) with great interest.
The Pale Blue Eye Synopsis
The Pale Blue Eye is a period mystery thriller written and directed by Scott Cooper (Black Mass, Antlers), based on the 2003 novel of the same name written by Louis Baynard. The film stars Christian Bale as detective Augustus Landor, who investigates a series of murders at the United States Military Academy. Augustus is joined on this investigation by a young Edgar Allen Poe, played by Harry Melling, best known for his work as a child actor in the Harry Potter franchise. Augustus is dealing with his demons, as his daughter ran off two years ago, and he frequently confides in his barmaid and lover Patsy (Charlotte Gainsbourg).
My Thoughts on The Pale Blue Eye
The Pale Blue Eye is a dreary and often dull film with a central mystery that is somewhat anticlimactic. That said, the film does feature a standout performance by Harry Melling as a young Edgar Allen Poe. The film's title comes from a line from Poe's short story The Tell-Tale Heart, which is depicted as being inspired by Poe's attraction to Lea Marquis, played by Lucy Boynton (Sing Street, Bohemian Rhapsody).
The Marquis family ends up being people of interest in Augustus Landor's investigation. However, the film does take its time before focusing on them, with Gillian Anderson as Julia Marquis not showing up until near the film's midpoint, despite having third billing in the movie, behind Christian Bale and Harry Melling. As the case progresses, The Pale Blue Eye moves into the horror genre, though the turn seemingly comes out of nowhere. However, it does provide an excuse for a two-scene cameo by a now 92-year-old Robert Duvall as Occult expert Jean Pepe.
Probably the most head-scratching element of The Pale Blue Eye is how it seemingly wraps up the murder mystery, only to continue for another half hour, revealing a sudden and unexpected twist. During this closing sequence of the film, Edgar Allen Poe suddenly turns into Sherlock Holmes as he makes a significant deduction about the motive. The problem is that the conclusion makes the previous 90 minutes of the film a waste of time.
As Harry Melling spent most of his childhood as Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films, his turn as Edgar Allan Poe in The Pale Blue Eye is one of his most significant adult film roles. However, the movie surrounding Melling's performance is quite a dull mystery.