Flix at :48: 'The Pale Blue Eye' is an engaging murder mystery that will keep the audience guessing until the tragic end
Do you know the best way to enjoy yourself during the frozen month of January? It's not skiing or snowshoeing.....it's a murder mystery. And Netflix has delivered.
Those of you who remember American literary history will know this film's title, "The Pale Blue Eye", references an ominous figure of famous writing.
"The Pale Blue Eye" takes place at the West Point Military Academy (located a few miles north of New York City) in 1830 where a stoic police officer has been summoned to investigate the apparent suicide of a young cadet who was found hanging from a tree. To bolster his research of this case, the police officer meets a young, awkward, military trainee at the academy named Edgar Allan Poe who helps solve the riddle of this death.
Director and writer Scott Cooper ("Hostiles", 2017) creates a sustained melancholy in this 19th century gothic mystery. In the vein of films like "Sleepy Hollow" (1999), "The Others" (2001), or "The Awakening" (2011), the old historic look of "The Pale Blue Eye" has men with bushy sideburns and women in ornate bonnets talking over flickering candlelight. Almost all the dialogue is spoken in delicate, restrained whispers which keeps the mood of tension and secrecy alive even as the threat of death grows.
This film is adapted from the 2006 historical fiction novel of the same name by Louis Bayard. In a few moments, the vocabulary and delivery of lines seem too contemporary; almost like the screenplay and actors forget for a moment the time period we're supposed to be in. But what viewers will likely remember most is not the twists of the mystery unfolding but the performance of Harry Melling as Edgar Allan Poe ("The Tragedy of Macbeth", 2021). With his small, but memorable, appearances in "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" (2018) and "The Devil All the Time" (2020), Harry Melling is proving he's much more than the annoying Dursley kid in the Harry Potter franchise. His pale and bony face expresses curiosity, longing, and fear all at the same time. In so many shots he looks like a spooky bird with his enlarged eyes so close together he might see things others will not.
"The Pale Blue Eye" won't knock people's socks off (it has no violence, gore, or jump scares). But it at least does well providing an engaging story that will keep people guessing until the tragic end.