The Pale Blue Eye Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Review of the movie

On January 6, a new detective thriller starring Christian Bale became available for viewing on Netflix. This is a 2003 adaptation of Louis Bayard’s novel of the same name. In the review below, we consider whether the creators of the film managed to intrigue well and at the same time convey the gloomy atmosphere of the original source.

“The Pale Blue Eye” / The Pale Blue Eye

Genre thriller, detective
Directed by Scott Cooper
Starring Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Lucy Boynton, Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson, Robert Duvall
Netflix premiere
Release year 2023
IMDb site

1830, West Point, New York. Retired constable Augustus Landor walks along the river among snow-covered forest hills. Near his poor house, he meets Captain Hitchcock – one of the chief officers of the local military academy. The latter reports that the case immediately needs Landor’s investigative skills.

While already within the walls of the academy, the veteran detective gets to know Colonel Thayer. From that he learns that at night one of the cadets named Leroy Fry was hanged from a branch, and someone else cut out his heart. As a result, Landor agrees to cooperate and soon enlists the help of a young but talented cadet, Edgar Allan Poe.

Review of the movie

After the hit “Outsiders”, Christian Bale disappeared from the radar for a while, but in 2022 he returned immediately with several interesting roles. However, the past year cannot be called unequivocally successful for the actor. “Thor: Love and Thunder” by Taika Waititi and especially “Amsterdam” by David O. Russell did not live up to the expectations of many viewers and critics. Although Bale himself played wonderfully in both films as usual.

But “Pale Blue Eye” is seen as a somewhat more modest project compared to the above-mentioned works. This is an adaptation of a successful detective novel, which, although it has a strong cast, barely reaches the status of a blockbuster with a loud poster. That is why the release on streaming, not taking into account the limited rental at the end of last year, seems to be a good decision.

For the writer and director Scott Cooper, the film becomes the third joint work with Bale after “From Hell” and “Enemies”. This is an exemplary and fairly accurate screen adaptation that respects the original source. Here, Cooper can easily feel like a hard-working student who had a good feel for the literary material and professionally adapted it to the screen.

Review of the movie

But such exemplaryness has the reverse side of the coin, because for those viewers who are familiar with Bayard’s work, this tape will not have any intrigue. The screenwriter limited himself to minor corrections that do not affect the general content of the novel, which means that the detective component has not changed either. So no surprises should be expected.

The only exception is the need to cram Bayard’s verbiage into the standard two hours of running time. And the atmosphere is well reproduced here. It is an almost endless winter gloom, multiplied by Gothic mystery and some unpredictability. The latter is possible only if the viewer has not read the novel.

Masanobu Takayanagi’s camera is relatively minimalistic and devoid of unnecessary movements. She prefers to approach the actors at a distance no closer than medium shots and diligently films both snow-covered cold landscapes and dark rooms that are poorly lit by a few candles.

Review of the movie

Such a contrast of light and dark can be perceived as a symbol of the main character’s character. He seems like a good person, but the dark recesses of his tired soul must also be fully revealed.

Christian Bale perfectly portrays a confident, yet tired detective who knows what he’s doing. The choice of Harry Melling seems to be an equally successful candidate for the role of fragile Poe. In the book, this character has considerable artistry, so to some extent the role turns out to be more difficult than Bale’s part. However, the young actor decently portrays a young, brooding poet on the screen, not to mention the fact that he fits the type.

In general, despite the need to put the necessary material into 120 minutes, the creators offer a not too lively pace of the story. He can be described as calm, balanced, and he clearly fits the tape. However, Cooper’s ambitions appeal to the maximum to adequately transfer the events of the novel to the screen. They consciously refuse to present to the viewer something that is separated from the original source.

Review of the movie

“Pale Blue Eye” is a strong detective thriller, which does not make much sense to watch for those who know how the book ended. Otherwise, the film may even seem more interesting, but you still don’t have to wait for the desired suspense or genre revelations. For Bale’s filmography, the film is completely passable, unable to shake the viewer’s heart.

Pros: an authentic atmosphere that captures the spirit of the original source well, a good cast (even 92-year-old veteran Robert Duvall played a small role), appropriate pace of the story, perhaps some unpredictability for those who have not read the novel Cons: an absolute lack of any intrigue and distinct suspense for viewers familiar with Bayard’s book. This is the only noteworthy minus, but it is very significant Conclusion:

Pale Blue Eye deserves one viewing, and is a solid example of the genre. Good actors, winter gloom and a sense of threat lurking somewhere nearby do their job. But this is a kind of margin of safety for a detective

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