Beautifully shot and competently acted, The Pale Blue Eye is worth a watch from the comfort of your own home. However, despite it's best effort, it may not intrigue and entertain as much as it wants to.
WRITTEN BY BECCA JOHNSON / JANUARY 11, 2023
Arguably the first 'big' release of the year, Netflix Original The Pale Blue Eye stars Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) as detective Augustus Landor, who investigates a series of murders at a U.S Military Academy in 1940. Aiding him in his investigation is a young, eager Edgar Allan Poe, played by Harry Melling (Harry Potter). Beautifully shot and competently acted, The Pale Blue Eye is worth a watch from the comfort of your own home. However, despite it's best effort, it may not intrigue and entertain as much as it wants to.
Ask any film fan who their favourite actor is, and Christian Bale is likely to rank quite highly. His performance in The Pale Blue Eye is no exception to his usual talent, as he carries the movie with ease. However, he's not given a great deal to work with, which means he can't shine as bright as usual. It's Harry Melling who impresses the most here. Melling puts in a great turn as Edgar Allan Poe, the script following him as a young cadet before his fame as an influential author. Bale and Melling work particularly well together, creating a buddy-detective team that adds an enjoyable layer to the script. The roster here is pretty stacked, with great side performances from Lucy Boynton (Bohemian Rhapsody), Gillian Anderson (Sex Education) and Timothy Spall (Harry Potter) among many.
The movies best asset, an asset in which director Scott Cooper (Antlers) always excels in, is it's atmosphere. It's dark, gritty, gothic and looming from start to finish, utilising shadows, smoke and darkness perfectly. There's plenty of memorable shots filtered throughout, and the movie has a darkly enticing nature about it that definitely begs for your attention. It's cold setting translates across into your own home, and immerses you into the story. Being set in the 1800's means The Pale Blue Eye has plenty of gorgeous costuming and set design, which matches the tone of the movie and creates a sight to behold. It really looks the part.
It's a shame that visuals this stunning were wasted on a story that can only be described as lacklustre. To put it bluntly, The Pale Blue Eye is a slow affair that dips it's toes into boring territory more than once. It sets the scene well, and the final act is worth the runtime, but the middle sags and becomes a bit of a chore to get through. The murders being solved are grizzly enough to pique interest, but as Bale plods along through the snow, so does the plot, meaning that by the time the reveal comes, its difficult to care. It develops it's two main characters nicely, especially Bale's Landor who we learn a lot about along the way, but it's the murder mystery that lacks focus and finesse. It definitely has it's moments, including a few twists and turns that for some will make it worth the watch, but the script is very mediocre and plays it a bit too safe.
Given that it's on Netflix, The Pale Blue Eye is worth the watch if you enjoy dark mysteries, period dramas, immersive visuals and a bit of Bale. Although the script lets it down, it's bookmarked with some memorable and worthwhile moments. It may not be the best Netflix Original murder mystery to release recently, but it's competent enough to give a viewing. Expect greatness from it's cinematography and performances, but don't expect too much from the story.