For readers of the horror and suspense genre, the name Edgar Allan Poe is a reference. If you don’t read, you can still enjoy the thriller The Pale Blue Eyes, a film starring Christian Bale and available on Netflix since January. Just keep expectations low.
An adaptation of the 2003 bestseller of the same name, the story revolves around a series of unexpected and mysterious deaths that occur at West Point Academy in 1830. The apparent and unexplained suicides of cadets only get stranger when their hearts are torn from their bodies. Seeking to avoid negative publicity and wanting to uncover the truth, the Academy enlists the services of a local civilian, Augustus Landor, a retired former police detective who lives nearby in seclusion. Helping Landor is an eager young cadet, hot-tempered and scheming, with a penchant for drink, and two volumes of poetry to his name. That’s right, Edgar Allan Poe himself, played by an excellent Harry Melling.
Similar in intelligence and weak on drink, the two develop a surprisingly deep relationship as their investigation takes them into a hidden world of secret societies, sacrifices, and macabre rituals. But it’s a secret from the past that will put their friendship to the test.
Although it has a strong cast – Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones, and Robert Duvall appear – the script fails when the occult gains momentum. The surprise at the end is silly and therefore the film is lost. A pity because the story is inspired by some real facts – Edgar Allan Poe was even a cadet at the Academy – but the true death of the writer, surrounded by mystery until today, would have been more interesting than the story that Louis Bayard created. Details are clear from the start, but for the keen eye only. A movie to pass the time, nothing more than that.