The Pale Blue Eye

The Pale Blue Eye, tells a fictional tale about the real Edgar Allen Poe but should the heart beneath the floorboards remain buried?
Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Gillian Anderson, Robert Duvall
Scott Cooper
Crime, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Release date
January 6, 2023
2h 8m
Where to watch
Overall Score
Rating Overview
Rating Summary
The Pale Blue Eye is a wonderfully acted beautifully shot slightly above-average movie. Like a good whiskey, it is a slow and pleasant burn but it could have stood some more aging to give it the depth of flavor to which it aspires.

Set in 1830, The Pale Blue Eye tells the story of Inspector Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) as he investigates a gruesome murder that has taken place on the grounds of West Point Academy. Along the way, he befriends and enlists the aid of a 20-something Edgar Allen Poe, played by Harry Melling (the Harry Potter films), who is a student there. Together, they risk their own lives in the pursuit of the truth but the truth isn’t always what it seems.

The Pale Blue Eye

The Pale Blue Eye is a deliberately paced murder mystery that sustains the same level of tension throughout most of its runtime. It relies little on cheap tricks like jump scares but, instead, depends on the strained relationships between its odd and dour characters to keep us on the edge of our seats. For 2/3s of the film, it works masterfully. Regrettably, it ultimately fizzles out with a less-than-stellar payoff.

While the movie’s cinematography is slightly above average, the real visual star is the lighting. I can’t think of a movie that did a better job of making the audience feel the lack of electricity in a period piece. It perfectly sets the tone of the film, leaving the viewer in the dark much like the protagonists. The downside is that there are a few scenes that were a little too dark. One fewer scene and I probably wouldn’t have noticed but I did.

Christian Bale gives his usual flawless performance. No one does intense and dour like Bale. However, there were two surprise performances in The Pale Blue Eye. The first was Harry Melling. Most will remember him as Harry’s overweight under I.Q.’d cousin Dudley. Those who saw him in 2020’s The Old Guard already knew of his weight loss but who knew that he could outshine Christian Bale in virtually every scene they shared? I certainly didn’t. He was mesmerizing as Poe and I hope to soon see him in many more things. The second surprise was a completely unrecognizable Gillian Anderson (The X-Files), who played Julia Marquis. Marquis is on the eccentric side and Anderson plays her to awkward perfection.

While all of the performances given were superb, there were a number of English actors affecting American accents, and there were a few times when you could hear the English in their English.

All and all, The Pale Blue Eye is worth the watch, especially if you enjoy whodunits.


The main antagonist is an atheist who, at one point, also seems to be anti-military. There came a point when it felt like the filmmaker’s anti-religious bias was coming out through his main character. I could be wrong but it’s how it seemed so, I’ve got to ding it a bit.

James Carrick

James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.

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