By: Amanda Guarragi
Vengeance makes people do some questionable things, but it becomes a different story when a father seeks justice for his daughter’s rape. The Pale Blue Eye works on two plains as Veteran Detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) investigates a series of murders with the help of a young cadet who will eventually become the world-famous author Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling). After a cadet is found with a noose around his neck, Landor interrogates the others who knew Cadet Fry. After that, they find his heart cut out of his body in the morgue. The mystery of the murder continues as another cadet suffered the same fate. Detective Landor works with Allan Poe to try and decipher messages and the symbolism of carving the heart out of a deceased man. As Landor gets to know the cadets, he also tries to find the men who raped his daughter without ever telling the story of what happened to her.
Director Scott Cooper sets a wintery backdrop as Landor and Allen Poe work together to solve this mystery. There’s the factual and logical reasoning from Detective Landor, while Allan Poe (rightfully so) creates a poetic reimagining of the murders. He taps into the symbolism of carving out a man’s heart and instantly links it to a former lover. This leads to the suspect being a woman, a path Detective Landor wouldn’t have guessed. Slowly, the story begins to unfold, and witchcraft becomes involved with the brutal murders of these men. Who is conducting these ceremonies, and what is the purpose? Detective Landor is at wit’s end as he finds more information about these murders that also tie into his daughter’s rape. The murders are the main focus, but the reluctance to accuse women without justifiable evidence is explored in this case. When Lea (Lucy Boyton) and Julia Marquis (Gillian Anderson) enter the story, they are endearing and incredibly empathetic.
Bale always gives a strong performance, but Anderson is the standout in this film. Her voice and mannerisms are peculiar, making her an interesting character to look after. Boyton has lovely chemistry with Melling, as Lea and Edgar bond over their differences throughout the film. Edgar speaks to Lea differently than all the other cadets, which she appreciates, and she starts to like him. Edgar Allan Poe is obscure, but he is more of a lover than a fighter. He sees things in a different light, a bit bleaker but somehow uplifting. Melling’s performance as Allan Poe is possibly the most accurate portrayal on screen. It was an emotional performance while still brushing the small details that make Allan Poe a poet. It was the early stages of his life, and he had a hopefulness in humanity, which was nice to see. He was very observant and could understand someone’s soul without speaking to them.
The title of the film, The Pale Blue Eye, is considered a trap within the film. The eyes never lie, no matter how much you want to cover something up. Your emotions will always come through without even meaning to because everything reaches the eyes. Whether it’s a smile, sadness, or even a blank stare in not knowing how you feel, it’s not hidden. The Pale Blue Eye is a novel by Louis Bayard that won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2007. The film did do the book justice, as it captured the slow burn of love, loss, and the lengths of witchcraft to protect oneself. Even taking place in the 1800s shows the difference in social class and relationships that also factor into the murder and the misogyny surrounding rape culture. It’s a mystery thriller that will keep you engaged because of the odd women, Allan Poe’s words, and Bale’s performance as a father seeking some form of retribution for his daughter.