The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Detective Augustus Landor investigates a series of grisly murders with the help of a young Edgar Allan Poe

I suppose it had to happen. I’ve had a run of really good films so far, with every single one worth watching again. So I suppose it’s inevitable that eventually I’d get a film I didn’t like in 2023. It’s a shame, but this is probably the longest I’ve been into a year before that happened. Also, the first Netflix film I watched this year which just goes to show something, I’m not sure what, though.

So why doesn’t this work? It should, it has a really stacked cast. Look at the names involved: Christian Bale, Toby Jones, Timothy Spall. What connects those names? All British. The film location? 1830’s New York. Which (and I’ve checked a map), is not Britain. I get sometimes actors play different nationalities, and it’s usually not a big deal. But for this many members of the cast to not be American feels a bit weird. This could have been a great showcase for young American talent. The biggest non-British performer is Gillian Anderson, and she’s almost British as she’s spent large portions of her life here. Just to check, America still has actors, right? Or are they just depending on comedians now?

At times it’s beautiful. The location lends itself well to stylistic shots of landscapes, and it suits a story like this. The director, Scott Cooper, also directed Antlers, which you may remember I was not a fan of. And if you don’t remember, here’s the link anyway, warning, I do go off on a weird tangent for……well pretty much all of it.

The other issue? It’s hard to get through. Not because of content or strangeness, but because at times it is painfully dull. Ultimately, it comes down a poor script. It doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. Does it want to be a gothic horror? A murder mystery? The most annoying thing about the script is how much it fumbles what should be the highlight. The reveal of the murderer towards the end. One, the things that needed to happen are a little hard to believe. There are so many coincidences and weird character decisions. The scene showing the reveal isn’t even exciting. It tells you who the murderer is, then explains the motives, then shows you the murders in flashbacks. We didn’t need a scene of them killing people or approaching them, we know it happened, and we gain nothing from a barely lit shot of someone punching someone and shouting “who else was there?” at someone.

It’s a shame as I really wanted to enjoy this, I was hoping the Poe thing would give the film a sense of intelligence and darkness, as it is, you could replace Poe with anybody and it wouldn’t change the plot much at all.


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