Based on Louis Bayard’s novel of the same name, writer-director Scott Cooper’s The Pale Blue Eye, set in 1830 West Point, New York, follows veteran detective Augustus Landor (Bale) as he investigates a series of grisly murders at the United States Military Academy with the aid of a young cadet (Melling), who will eventually go on to become the world-famous author Edgar Allan Poe.

One of the potential issues with whodunit films is their use of expositional dialogue, and in this film, it becomes distracting. Exposition dumps make most of the dialogue sound stilted and it’s clear that there’s no trust in the audience’s intelligence. Information fails to be delivered in a way that’s at all interesting, and because of this, the story takes forever to get off the ground. These glaringly obvious pacing issues never fully resolve themselves and lazy tactics such as flashbacks are utilized too often in an attempt to disguise its otherwise predictable plot. 

As expected, Bale is great, and Melling’s performance, though edging on hammy at times, is fitting to Poe’s character and nicely contrasts and challenges Bale’s stoicism, breathing life into an otherwise dull lineup of characters. Melling makes Poe feel fully fleshed out and lived in, while most of the other performances are just that, they’re performances. Their characters’ existences seem to merely end when their scene does, and this isn’t necessarily the fault of the impressive ensemble, because despite their efforts, they just don’t have enough to work with. 

The costume and set designs are breathtaking, but beautiful production, along with Bale and Melling’s exceptional performances, still weren’t enough to elevate the mediocrity. The Pale Blue Eye is a slog to get through and fails to live up to its potential, ending in a rushed, melodramatic climax that perfectly encompasses just how uninspired the rest of the film was.



CAST: Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones, Harry Lawtey, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Robert Duvall

DIRECTOR: Scott Cooper

WRITER: Scott Cooper

SYNOPSIS: A world-weary detective is hired to investigate the murder of a West Point cadet.