Instructions for immortality. These words from the trailer are enough to explain the nature of Scott Cooper’s upcoming Netflix film, “The Pale Blue Eye.” Based on Louis Bayard’s novel of the same name, the film will seemingly have a vibe akin to that which we came across in 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes”: science disguised as magic to keep people in fear.
The place is West Point. The year is 1830. Veteran investigator Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called upon to look into the murder of a cadet at the United States Military Academy. This comes after another cadet commits suicide and his heart is carved from his chest. To help him in the case, Landor appoints young Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling), a cadet at the very academy. The gloomy gothic atmosphere, as seen in the trailer, does tell us of the horror element that is in the film. It is not ghosts that scare us, but the uncertainty of the dark. When a dead cadet’s heart goes missing, it is natural for people to think that the occult is involved, especially during those times. But Landor knows better, and he has to not only solve the case but also break through the blinding beliefs of the people who come his way during his investigation. As compelling as Christian Bale’s character seems to be, it is Harry Melling’s Edgar Allan Poe who the fans will be equally interested to see. In the world of literature, Edgar Allan Poe is a revered figure known for his romanticism and, if we consider his involvement in the film’s plot, his stories of mystery. It was his penchant for the unknown that perhaps made writer Louis Bayard add him to the novel. By the time Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy in West Point, he had already served in the army and published his first two collections of poems, namely “Tamerlane and Other Poems” and “Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems.” So we have to see if his poems play any role in the film’s plot or if we see him writing poems during breaks from the investigation.
The dichotomy between fire and ice in the trailer seems to tell of two opposite forces fighting each other. Whenever there is fire, there is a revelation, and whenever there is ice, there is uncertainty and death. In the trailer, fire or warmth appears much less than the vastness and chill of the cold. This means that Landor and Poe will have to endure a lot of the cold that lies in the air of West Point, air that smells of uncertainty and death, before they can come across revelations. The vastness of the ice also signifies just how widespread the mystery is within which Landor finds himself. He will have to tread with caution, as too much pressure at any moment can lead to a mishap. Whoever the culprit is, it will take a lot more than just time and endurance to find him or her. The trailer ends with Bale’s Landor explaining that it is only a matter of time before they find the one responsible. This seems to be a play by the creators, as it is only a matter of time before “The Pale Blue Eye” releases and we find out who the murderer is. Christian Bale is made for roles like this, especially with his ability to add to the vibe with his low, husky voice that seems to catalyze the mystery while keeping itself distinctly clear and dominant. There is a method to his madness and madness to his method, as we have seen in films like “American Psycho,” “The Prestige,” “Amsterdam,” “American Hustle,” “Equilibrium,” “The Machinist,” and “Vice,” to name a few. So it waits to be seen whether Harry Melling is able to put up with Bale’s Landor by playing an equally interesting character, if not more. Poe lost his parents when he was three and was then raised by John Allan, a rich exporter, but was forced to discontinue his education due to not receiving financial help from John. This was when he joined the army. So there was a turmoil inside him that Melling would have to pull off on screen. He has proven his worth as an actor in Netflix’s “The Devil All The Time” and “The Queen’s Gambit” as well as in 2021’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” but working alongside Christian Bale will mean upping his game.
Written and directed by Scott Scooper, “The Pale Blue Eye” stars Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Lucy Boynton (Bohemian Rhapsody, Murder on the Orient Express, Sing Street, Sense and Sensibility), Gillian Anderson (Sex Education, The Crown, The X-Files, Crooked House, The Last King of Scotland), Robert Duvall (The Judge, Thank You For Smoking, The Godfather: Part I & II, Apocalypse Now, M.A.S.H., The Natural), Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Finding Neverland), and Charlotte Gainsbourg (Dark Crimes, Anti-Christ, The Snowman, Melancholia, Samba). The film will be released in theaters on December 23, 2022, and it will be available on Netflix on January 6, 2023.