Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: A world-weary detective is hired to investigate the murder of a West Point cadet. Stymied by the cadets’ code of silence, he enlists one of their own to help unravel the case – a young man the world would come to know as Edgar Allan Poe.
Review: Netflix’s The Pale Blue Eye may not be the first movie (or television show) to star a fictionalised version of Edgar Allan Poe, but it might just be the best one yet.
The film is adapted from the novel by Louis Bayard and starring Christian Bale as gifted detective Augustus Landor who is brought in to investigate the grisly death. He meets a young charismatic cadet with a penchant for poetry and death, Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling), and as the body count grows the two join forces to stop the ritualistic murders.
The cinematography of this gothic inspired tale is breathtaking. From the opening frames I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and like my favourite comics this movie made me instantly want to watch it twice, once for the story and then again just to enjoy the beautifully shot scenes. The almost black and white scenes contrast with vivid colours like the blue uniforms of the cadets all set against haunting winter landscapes, making for scenes that fans of gothic horror live for. It reminded me a bit of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow in that way. I haven’t seen the other films that cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi worked on (Hostiles, Stillwater, Out of the Furnace) but that’s definitely going to change after seeing The Pale Blue Eye.
Littered with A-list actors who are no strangers to period-based tales such as Gillian Anderson, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall and Toby Jones and of course, Christian Bale. His portrayal of real-life detective (and possibly the creator of the American detective story) Augustus Landor may be his most subdued yet. He plays the solitary man who drinks a bit too much and spends his nights grieving the death of his wife and his daughter who ran off with a sort of quiet intensity, and it almost feels like his character takes a backseat to others in the first half as Melling’s Poe takes stage front and centre. Which is not to say Bale isn’t terrific here because as the mystery builds in intensity so does he.
Harry Melling who most will know from his famous role as cousin Dudley Dursley to the Boy Who Lived Harry Potter and more recently from The Queen’s Gambit, embodies Edgar Allan Poe in a way no actor before him ever has. Or at the very least he looks uncannily like the man! His portrayal of Poe leans more towards him being odd but charming and I would be lying if I said my favourite moments weren’t the ones where he was present.
A visually gorgeous film with engaging actors and a compelling well-paced mystery that delivers, this gothic thriller may not be for everyone as they tend to take things at a slower pace, but for those who enjoy them The Pale Blue Eye delivers in all the right ways.
Score: 7 out of 10
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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