Monday, January 30, 2023

The Pale Blue Eye on Netflix was a solid murder mystery with good use of the macabre.

I have no idea if The Pale Blue Eye, a movie on Netflix that premiered about a month ago, is a true story. I do like Christian Bale, who plays the primary protagonist in the movie. But the thing that kind of grabbed me was that he is assisted by another--a young man by the name of Edgar Allen Poe--who is a bullied cadet at WestPoint Military Academy. This movie unravels slowly, with a crime scene of another young man, and then some gruesome details thrown in to match something you'd expect to be a Poe story, let alone have the actual young "would be" writer starring in it as himself.

Things that immediately struck me as unique to the period piece was how dark it was at night. Of course, this would be the case as everything was lit by oil lamps. So the night scenes were darker than I'd expect from living in a city. Yet, it still was surprising. The choice to show all that darkness lent a pretty menacing feel to the show considering that there was an unidentified murderer about on the academy grounds doing whatever he liked to whomever he desired.

I don't think this is a spoiler (at least not too much of one), but on the morning of the murder that sets off the investigation, Poe awoke and began reciting the opening lines of a poem which spoke of a woman in unspeakable distress. To make this situation even more chilling, Poe claims that his long-dead mother dictated it to him. This is the kind of atmospheric stuff that fills this show, and the kinds of details which serve to draw you into the macabre tale that the movie carefully moves into place in front of you. Edgar Allen Poe is the author of one of my favorite poems, The Raven, which (no matter where most people stand with regard to his body of work) is unconditionally a masterpiece. I don't really like most of Poe's stories myself, but I never get tired of revisiting The Raven and its extremely unique way of telling its story.

If you haven't watched it, there is a twist to the movie. You might not like it, but I really did. And the actor who plays Poe inserts a kind of charm into the role, lending to the historical figure a kind of vivacity for life as his character hardly takes an opportunity to shut up in every scene he is in. By contrast, Bale is a dark and brooding soul, whose talents at investigating murder scenes have called him here to solve a mystery that might be among the most memorable of his career.

Because of this movie, I think I now want a string of movies with Christian Bale as a detective in the 1800's. Maybe the next one could be him playing a detective in Victorian London trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders.

Has anyone else watched it? If so, what did you think?


  1. That sounds like it could be interesting. I read a few Poe stories in high school. I liked The Cask of Amontillado but the others not as much. Still he did pretty much invent the detective genre so I guess this supposed to explain that.

  2. I'm curious, but I don't know if I would be able to get through it. I'll keep it in mind.