“At West Point Academy in 1830, the calm of an October evening is shattered by the discovery of a young cadet’s body swinging from a rope just off the parade grounds. An apparent suicide is not unheard of in a harsh regimen like West Point’s, but the next morning, an even greater horror comes to light. Someone has stolen into the room where the body lay and removed the heart.”

Director: Scott Cooper
Writers: Scott Cooper, Louis Bayard
Staring: Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, Toby Jones
Rated: R
Release Date: January 6, 2023

The setting is October 1930 in West Point, NY. Tired, retired detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is working on his homestead when he is called upon by the local military to investigate the gruesome hanging of young Cadet Leroy Fry.(Steven Maiel). The horrifying aspect of this murder (not suicide) is that Fry’s heart was cut out of his chest after he died.

Landor, and his decrepit mood, is on the case, but he can not do it alone. His eyes drifts towards cadet Edgar Allen Poe (Harry Melling), who has made his interest in the case a bit more obvious than he should. Poe and Landor put together their ideas and agree that the deceased was lured to the location under the pretense of a secret meeting. The mystery is afoot, and things only get more interesting with dead animals with hearts missing appearing.

Anyone have an interest in black magic and satanic rituals?

Suddenly another cadet by the name of Randolph Ballinger (Fred Hechinger) disappears, only to be found dead, hung, with his heart and genitals removed. Ouch. After Ballinger’s discovery, a third cadet called Stoddard just runs away. Vanishes. Coincidence? I think not.

While trying to sort out the strange murders and possible illuminati-esq motives, Landor and Poe begin focusing on the Marquis family and its patriarchal figure, Dr. Daniel Marquis (Toby Jones). Landor makes friends with Daniel, and Poe becomes infatuated with the young lady of the family, Lea Marquis (Lucy Boynton). Poe has those thrumming eyes and could look past the random seizures of Lea. He volunteers to do anything that she needs to get better.

He didn’t know he’d end up being tied to a wooden pallet with his heart about to get ripped out. Yea, talk about a buzz kill.

Luckily for Poe’s sake, Landor is able to connect the dots of who is behind the murders just in time. The beleaguered detective gets the truth from Daniel and finds Poe just in time to save him from an untimely demise. Mystery solved and lives saved, right?

There is a final twist in The Pale Blue Eye (2023) that Poe is able to unravel after escaping his lustful fog for Lea. It shines a different light on Landor, and it illuminates hidden motivations about the original murder of Leroy Fry and Ballinger. There is a longing stare-off between Landor and his young apprentice, and a final understanding is reached between the pair of two odd crime-solving balls.


The Pale Blue Eye was the first 2023 release I saw of the calendar year. I am a fan of director and writer Scott Cooper, so perhaps my expectations were too high, but I was slightly disappointed by the viewing experience.

When the movie is focused on the murders, the possible murderers, and the slow procedural scenes, it is at its best. When The Pale Blue Eye dips its toe into the supernatural, I was willing to get a little wet. However, when the story decides to take those demon tales to the deep end, that is when I bow out. A movie that began grounded in a blue-hazed hard-nosed environment takes a leap I was not convinced to take. I could not by buy into that. The first act is the movie’s best, and it is a slow decline from there.

I should note here that that The Pale Blue Eye is not a bad movie, but nor is it a good one. I enjoyed my time watching it, but in the weeks after viewing, I found myself straining for the details of the story more-and-more.

In a weird twist of fate, watching The Pale Blue Eye got me interested in reading Louis Bayard’s book of the same name. The film The Pale Blue Eye reminded me of a great book I read called Murder As A Fine Art, written by David Morell. This book centers around the hysteria of surrounding Jack The Ripper. Scott Cooper, I have your next project for you.

Scott Cooper’s rendition of The Pale Blue Eye meets the adequate levels of setting mood and tone, but it lacks in portraying the layered and character-driven story. There was not enough time paid to the subtleties of Lea Marquis and Mrs. Julia Marquis (Gillian Anderson). When they were made to be part of the major reveal and climax of the story, it takes the wind out of the viewers sails. These individuals are part of the cockamamy scheme?


The Pale Blue Eye‘s descent (regarding my personal) enjoyment is buoyed by the performances of the two main actors. Christian Bale portrays the dirty, grimy, and incredibly unemotional person, lending to great moments of realization where he is actually allowed to show small hints of excitement. Harry Melling has the most fun role with Edgar Allen Poe, and it is not at all what I was expecting. Poe is awkward. Poe is still working on who he wants to be. This is Poe before he turns into a creepy poetic genius. This fictional story can act as a catalyst to his new and immortal career.

This is where I spoil the final twist of the movie, so get out of here if you want to watch The Pale Blue Eye with blinders.

I wish the entire movie was like this final scene. This is two actors, not lassoed by supernatural elements of the story, exchanging truths and coming to a revelatory understanding. The way I interpreted this scene is that Lander is relieved to have been caught. He is thankful that Poe is his mental match. Landor no longer needs to hold the secret himself. He has lost his heart with the loss of his daughter, and now that someone else sees this from him, he has a chance to start anew (in a weird twisted way). This scene is my favorite scene The Pale Blue Eye, and the fact it comes right at the end makes the wait for the end of this movie worth it.

The Pale Blue Eye falls a bit below the expectations I set for it, but getting to the chance to watch a movie like this at home with the talents of Bale and Melling spotlighted makes me happy. I don’t enjoy the movie theater experience nearly as much anymore, and that comes in large part from having to deal with other people in the theater. I don’t have the patience for it. The Pale Blue Eye demands a bit of patience, and while you may be ringing your hands a little at the whole experience, it’s ending will make you happy you pressed play of a movie that took a chance, even it it doesn’t result in a smash hit.

STANKO RATING: C+ (2.5/5 Stars)

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