There is an alternate world where a grisly crime thriller about a serial killer at West Point in the 1830s, starring Christian Bale, would be a slam dunk to be a gripping and sadistic piece of entertainment. This is not that world, and The Pale Blue Eye, still starring Christian Bale, is a flaccid and flimsy crime drama that is an utter waste of time.
Bale plays an evidence-driven detective assigned to investigate a series of brutal murders at the prestigious military academy. There he befriends an awkward cadet by the name of Edgar Allen Poe, because of course Edgar Allen Poe is in this fictional tale… because.
Bale looks and acts bored throughout, understandable given how boring The Pale Blue Eye is start to finish. Every scene is a drag, despite the considerable on-screen talent who have the opportunity to elevate the sordid material but never do. There is also a fair amount of over-acting, with Harry Melling flailing as creepy/strange young Poe.
The story does pick up as time progresses, but as it gets more dastardly the movie fails to find life in the macabre. It’s more disaster theater than anything else, with a satanic ritual sequence that should have been relevatory coming off as limp as everything else. The big twist/reveal is equally ho-hum, though one can imagine how in the right hands you could see it landing with a bang.
But that’s The Pale Blue Eye for you. It’s just a massive miss, a heinous waste of Christian Bale (and a story that could make for a good movie, in theory—or an alternative world).
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.