The Pale Blue Eye Review- A Film as Dark & Atmospheric as its Story Is

Scott Cooper is an eclectic director his films have varied from horror, Antlers, period piece, Hostiles, Biopics, Blass Mass, and music-based films, Crazy Heart. He once again delves into period piece territory with his latest film The Pale Blue Eye. He also works again with a frequent collaborator Christian Bale who starred in Hostiles and Out of the Furnace. 

Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is a famous detective who lives a reclusive life on his own in New York when Captain Hitchcock (Simon McBurney) comes calling. He asks him if he would accompany him back to West Point Academy in Maryland at the behest of Superintendent Thayer(Timothy Spall) who wishes he would investigate a series of gruesome murders at the Academy. He enlists the help of a young cadet Edgar Alan Poe (Harry Melling) from the Harry Potter franchise to help him uncover this mystery.

With any period piece film, the director must make it authentic to the time and place it takes place in. In regards to this movie Cooper has created an atmosphere of a cold, dark dank place. The foggy cloudy air lends itself to this story of murder and mystery. Masanobu Takayanagi also worked on Hostiles with Cooper. So Cooper knew this was the right man for the job regarding the moody setting and look of this movie. 

Cooper has assembled a fantastic cast along with the great character actors I’ve already mentioned. He has added Tobey Jones and Gillian Anderson as husband and wife, one a Doctor. Robert Duvall plays an old associate and caretaker at the Academy. Also, the young men who are being investigated are played by Fred Hechinger, Charlie Tahan, Harry Lawley, Gideon Glick, and Brennon Keel Cook, but the best of the bunch is Lucy Boynton who plays Lea Marquis the daughter of the Doctor and his wife. She has a presence when she’s on screen. She is one of the standouts in the cast along with Bale and Melling.

Louis Bayard wrote the novel the script is based on. Cooper and Bayard have crafted a fantastic mystery with a moody atmospheric setting. The cold weather and winter setting are perfect for the overall look of the movie. The mystery and the investigation have many layers to them. The dialogue and acting go hand in hand but they come from the script which is impeccably done. With such a great cast assembled they are able to utter these lines of dialogue with exquisite proficiency. 

Cooper has been able to make some fantastic movies in his time in the business. He worked with great actors before but this cast is exceptional. Along with them and the cinematography also must be mentioned is the costume and hair and makeup department. As they say, the clothes maketh the man and in the case of this film, they all look the part of which they are playing. The cadet’s uniforms, the coats, and the lady’s dresses all are adorned very well by the entire cast. These two departments in the film work perfectly with the others seamlessly.

The Pale Blue Eye sets its story at a great time in American history, in the 1830s.  This is a time period that has a distinct look and feel to it. Also, the location of Maryland in the fall and winter make for a perfect setting for a murder mystery. Add in a great cast who all give fantastic performances with Bale, Melling, and Boynton as the standouts. Netflix has done it again with this dark cold murder mystery. They seem to have a knack for working with great directors who have an autour nature about them. Cooper is another one of these very proficient directors who has a distinct vision that works so well on screen.

4 ½ stars 

Dan Skip Allen

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