“The Pale Blue Eye” is a middling tale of the woes of a fictitious Edgar Allan Poe. Scott Cooper brings the 2003 novel of the same name by Louis Bayard to the big (and streaming) screen. Harry Melling stars as the fictitious version of Poe, who is enrolled at West Point. Who would’ve thought that of the “Harry Potter” actors, Melling would be in the most prestigious projects (including “Queen’s Gambit”). Christian Bale plays Augustus Landor, a former military man turned detective.
The film sits in a middling place between occult obsessed and crime caper. Willing to commit to neither, it ends up a compromise of a film, somewhat to our dismay. There are glimmers of what could’ve been a camp classic, or a historical fiction whodunnit. Yet the majority of “The Pale Blue Eye” relies on the chemistry of the leads.
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Melling through his Colonel Sanders take on a southern accent, and Bale with his jumble of diction have a decent report at times. However the film sidetracks from the crux of their relationship too often for us to really feel the bond.
If you’re looking for more evidence of trying to rely on gimmicks or smoke and mirrors look no further than the brief appearance by Robert Duvall as Jean Pepe, a local expert in the occult. You read that right.
The production design, cinematography, and score are trying their best to help elevate the film. At the end of the day it ultimately fails to deliver any sort of pulse quickening moments. Perhaps tales of the macabre are best left to the real life Poe.
“The Pale Blue Eye” also stars Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones, Harry Lawtey, Simon McBurney, Hadley Robinson, Timothy Spall, Joey Brooks, Brennan Cook, Gideon Glick, Fred Hechinger, Matt Helm, Jack Irving, Steven Maier, and Charlie Tahan.
It’s streaming now on Netflix.