MovieNight

The most interesting character of the film is Edgar Allan Poe.  Even if you had never heard of Poe, seeing this character in the film shows how truly strange he was.  Harry Melling does a great job in this role and also looks remarkably like Poe. 

It seems like every other movie I have seen lately has been a Netflix film.  There have been few decent offerings in theaters the last couple of months and Netflix has stepped into the void to provide (for the most part) quality films. “The Pale Blue Eye” is one of the newest releases by Netflix and is worth the two hours it takes to watch the movie.

The year is 1830. The place is the Hudson Valley, New York. More precisely, the location is the United States Military Academy, more well-known as West Point. Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is a local detective, and somewhat of a celebrity. His exploits in solving crimes are the stuff of legend in the area.

Landor is called upon by West Point Superintendent Thayer (Timothy Spall) to assist the Academy with a delicate matter. A cadet was found hanged earlier that morning on the Academy grounds. After what was an apparent suicide, his body was taken to the West Point morgue where someone later snuck in and removed his heart.  Thayer wants Landor to find the person responsible for the desecration of the corpse, though things are not as straightforward as they seem.

In the course of his investigation Landor comes upon a curious and unusual cadet. Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling) doesn’t have much to add to the investigation from a witness perspective.  But he does have some interesting insights into the evidence.  And he communes in his sleep with his dead mother.

Landor enlists Poe as an assistant to his investigation.  He wants Poe to work undercover for him, listening for gossip, gently discussing the issue with fellow cadets, and completing tasks that only a cadet could. Together, Landor and Poe must get to the bottom of the mystery before others die.

The setting for this type of historical mystery is great. It’s wintertime in upstate New York before the Civil War. The whole mood of the film is dark and dreary, no humor to be found here. During these times a good detective who observes more than others could make it appear as if he is a magician.

Augustus Landor is not what anyone would call a cheerful man. He is glum and depressed, a state he has lived in since his daughter ran away from home.  Still, at certain times Christian Bale manages to put a spark in his eye and an extra spring in his step.  Yet no one will make the argument that this is one of Bale’s best performances. This is due in part to the many great characters Bale has brought to life in the past and in part due to the demands of the character. Augustus Landor does not have many facets to his personality.

The most interesting character of the film is Edgar Allan Poe.  Even if you had never heard of Poe, seeing this character in the film shows how truly strange he was.  Harry Melling does a great job in this role and also looks remarkably like Poe.  In addition to the uniqueness of Poe, it is interesting to watch him as a character in a film rather than the scribe behind the story.  Much like the book the movie was based on, it is a fairly novel idea.

Unfortunately, he only disappointment of the movie was the mystery. Everything started out great with the setting, the detective, and Edgar Allan Poe as a character. This all lead to great expectations for the story. While the story is not bad by any means, my expectations got the best of me and I couldn’t help but feel a little let down.  Though there is a very nice twist to the mystery at the end.

“The Pale Blue Eye” will certainly entertain anyone who loves an old-school mystery or loves period pieces that have a decidedly Victorian-era feeling.  You could certainly do worse with all the rubbish films floating around to watch at home.

Grade: B+

Rated R for some violent content and bloody images.

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