Beautiful Gowns: Our Review of ‘The Pale Blue Eye’

Posted in Netflix, Theatrical, What's Streaming? by - January 04, 2023
Beautiful Gowns: Our Review of ‘The Pale Blue Eye’

Despite of a messy final product, Scott Cooper’s adaptation of The Pale Blue Eye deserves a lot of credit for the way its art direction transports its viewers to its setting. That setting, by the way, is 1830s Hudson Valley in New York. Every room has objects reminding us of what kind of technology is available at the time. Through Stefania Cella’s work, these objects stand out without calling too much attention to themselves. After all, the film still has to turn its spotlight to its mix of veteran and rising stars. One of those ‘veterans’ include Christian Bale, who plays Augustus Landor.

Augustus is a detective who investigates a series of murders claiming the lives of the students of the burgeoning US Military Academy. Helping Augustus investigate is one of the Academy’s cadets, a young and expectedly weird Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling). The Pale Blue Eye‘s production design also makes it almost tolerable. Its frills do their best to distract the viewers from an otherwise bleak wintry thriller film. The costumes have a similar effect. The reason I bring up the costumes is because yes, the cadets look good in traditional uniforms. But the women look better in Victorian gowns, even if they may not be period accurate.

Edgar manages to both be Augustus’ sidekick while trying to romance Lea Marquis (Lucy Boynton), the daughter of the Academy’s coroner (Toby Jones) and his wife (Gillian Anderson). Lea’s sickly nature somehow makes her more attractive to Edgar’s eyes, seeing her as the kind of person he can care for. Augustus is neutral on this romance except that it distracts from both of them finding out who the killer is. Or does it? The Pale Blue Eye‘s isn’t its bleakness, but its otherwise balanced atmosphere can’t cover up its terrible third act. I can imagine its source material being good in a pulpy way that doesn’t translate well in this format.

The Pale goes back and forth to Augustus confronting one of the killer’s henchmen while the killers are trying to strike again. And a confrontation like this feels very Bond movie. Why isn’t Augustus just running to where the crime is taking place? Without spoiling anything, the killers always return to the scene of the crime, so he can just run there. This can make the movie a few minutes longer than it needs to be. Of course, even if viewers are reaching the denouement, there are twists that feel unnecessary. It also doesn’t help that Melling overacts in many of his scenes, which feels like dropping a fire on top of old ruins.

The Pale Blue Eye already came out in select theatres and hits Netflix this Friday.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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