The Pale Blue Eye (2023) Movie Review – An atmospheric mystery bogged down by lazy, exploitative twists

An atmospheric mystery bogged down by lazy, exploitative twists

Based on the 2003 novel by Louis Bayard, director Scott Cooper’s The Pale Blue Eye finds Edgar Allan Poe in a period of his life about which little is known. In 1830, the 21-year-old poet entered West Point United States Military Academy. The mystery shrouding this time in Poe’s life gives a great deal of freedom for Bayard and Cooper in telling a fictionalized story about him–maybe too much freedom, in fact.

Portrayals of Poe often struggle to separate the man from the narrators in his poems and detective stories. The Pale Blue Eye is no different, dropping Henry Melling’s Poe into a detective story of his own.

The mystery unfolds when widower Detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is summoned to West Point to investigate a gruesome act at the academy. Not only did they discover one of their own cadets hanging from a tree; the heart was later cut out and stolen from the cadaver. When Landor determines the hanging was not a suicide, but a murder, he enlists an eccentric and bright young cadet for help: Edgar Allan Poe.

Cooper plunges us into a grimly intriguing mystery centered on a brooding detective with unseen depths. Landor is a complicated man, throwing himself into a case while grieving his daughter’s disappearance. It doesn’t quite make sense how the romantic musings of Poe are so quickly able to penetrate the hardened man, but the duality of their partnership is compelling all the same.

As is their investigation, until gradually it unravels to reveal the lazy, cheap, and exploitative components that were the driving force behind the mystery all along. In the end, The Pale Blue Eye doesn’t care about the depths of its characters–using the name of Edgar Allan Poe only as bait for a superficial story that takes one too many creative liberties.


Read More: Pale Blue Eye Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 5/10

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