The Pale Blue Eye
It is still a Wednesday and only two days to go for the weekend but before that I thought of squeezing out a couple of films. First up, I finished watching the new English film The Pale Blue Eye which is streaming on Netflix. The word of mouth for the film was extremely mixed but given that this was a murder mystery, I decided to give it a go. Afterall, who doesn’t enjoy a nail-biting murder mystery right? And to top it, the film also starred Christian Bale who is a prolific actor though 2022 wasn’t the best year for him. So then is The Pale Blue Eye worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Set in 1830, The Pale Blue Eye follows the story of the investigation behind a string of grizzly murders at the Military Academy. Who is the culprit? The story may not be novel but it does have an interesting premise. Having said that, it was such a shame that the film doesn’t follow it up with a great second and third act which would have really propelled the film to another level. The screenplay standing at 130 minutes may not seem too long but surprisingly so I found myself extremely distracted in the middle and end. The film can easily be related to a One Day International match of cricket wherein the viewers’ interests are piqued only in the first 10 to 15 overs before tapering away in the middle.
The drama opens on a brilliant note, wasting no time in getting to the point. So there ain’t any buildup as the protagonist is introduced right away to solve a ‘suicide’ that has already taken place. The thing that I really enjoyed was the world building that comprised of the right elements related to the atmosphere of the drama. The dull colouring coupled with fog added a lot of mystery to the drama wherein everyone was a suspect to begin with. Soon, the first roll of the dice reveals that the suicide is indeed a murder that sets the ball rolling perfectly for the events to follow. Slowly but steadily, you are introduced to all the suspects. Yet strangely so, the films begins to dip from this point.
The drama is a slow burn and for people calling out the film for this very reason, can only be termed as weak criticism. I have absolutely no problems with the proceedings being slow(which is a perspective to begin with), but if the narrative isn’t focus despite a brilliant premise that is waiting to blow up then I definitely have a big issue. Which is the case here. The narrative is meandering, almost giving an impression that the writing material wasn’t meaty enough. But I refuse to believe that, blaming the execution and the creative decision for the screenplay. Murder mysteries are generally exciting wherein the audience should be playing the detective themselves, keeping an eye on the clues and playing the guessing game throughout. But nothing of the sort happens due to the sleepy screenplay that neither focuses on the character motives nor on the case, more often than not.
There are moments of artificial tension that do have your attention every now and then. The events leading up to the twin twists are decent but I was able to guess both the twists from a distance. For someone who has been watching a lot of murder mysteries wouldn’t find the proceedings shocking or even half as impactful although most definitely gory. The writing should have been a lot better here to catch you off guard but you would need to blame the second act for completely watering down the third act that included the grand reveal. So overall, the screenplay is disappointing particular because it had the potential with the right amount of ambience to be special!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are pretty good although not entirely impactful. The BGM does enough to create an ambience of intrigue. The cinematography is excellent adding an atmospheric mystery lingering in the area where the drama is set in. Director Scott Cooper lacks bite and execution particularly in the second act that forces the drama to follow a lazy and sleepy narrative. The revenge drama just seemed to cliched and offered no novelty despite a promising opening act. The director misses the mark here and by a margin.
The performances by the ensemble cast is good. Toby Jones as Dr. Marquis is well restrained. Lucy Boynton as Lea has her moments to shine. Harry Melling as Poe is excellent and in certain moments holds the crumbling narrative so well. Christian Bale as Landor is phenomenal which actually makes me a little sad given how 2022 has shaped up for him. If you notice, all of his 3 outing have been good on his personal front(Thor : Love And Thunder, Amsterdam and The Pale Blue Eye) but the films have been a massive let down every single time. Probably he needs to revisit his choice of scripts and here is hoping he will bounce back!
Despite a great premise, The Pale Blue Eye is a timid murder mystery that shines only in parts ending up being a massive disappointment. Available on Netflix.