Part murder mystery, part suspense and part tribute to Edgar Allan Poe, this is a nifty period piece set in 1830s at West Point.
It’s not for everybody. Aficionados of modern-day slashers probably won’t appreciate the pace of this finely wrought film that’s based on a novel. But if you enjoy a slow burn that keeps you thinking while it unfolds, you’ll want to take in “The Pale Blue Eye.”
The mystery begins with a young cadet, who is found hanging from a tree …. Sort of. His feet still are touching the ground.
At first, his death is considered to be a suicide. But then investigator Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) discovers that the man’s heart has been removed.
Wouldn’t you know it? There’s a smart, oddball cadet who makes the acquaintance of Landor. And he’s none other than Poe (played to the hilt by Harry Melling (you may recognize him from his role as Dudley Dursley in the “Harry Potter” movies) who bears a remarkable resemblance to the iconic writer.
Landor admires Poe’s intelligence and drive, and the two form a sort of detective partnership. Landor talks with other cadets, too, and discovers some puzzling details that don’t seem to add up. Meanwhile, Poe does some sleuthing on his own, catching the eye of one cadet’s sister.
The ensemble includes two of my favorite British actors: Timothy Spall plays Superintendent Thayer and Toby Jones is the awkward coroner.
The cinematography of Masanobu Takayanagi is incredible, with dimly lit interiors and ice environments that lend themselves to the overall chill of this macabre film.
This is screenwriter/director Scott Cooper’s third outing with Bale (the other two are “Hostiles” and “Out of the Furnace.”) I love the way he develops Landor’s character.
As an “X-Files “ fan, I must mention one performer we see too little of these days. Gillian Anderson plays the wife of the coroner, and she’s a sight to behold.
Get your gothic on and enjoy this creepy whodunit.
3 ½ stars
Running time: Two hours and 8 minutes.
Streaming on Netflix.
Rated: R for coarse language, gore and violence.
Watch the trailer here.