The Pale Blue Eye

Where I Watched it: Netflix

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

This isn’t the first Oscar bait Netflix film that just didn’t work on me. This season, I’ve already tanked two of their actually well-reviewed hopefuls for various reasons. The pale Blue Eye is getting that treatment, and i think Netflix might be ok with that.

when you look at the marketing for this, and the fact that it technically dropped on Netflix in January, you might consider this a 2023 film. You’d be wrong. This had a qualifying run for Oscar consideration, it’s just not getting a ton of momentum. It’s the second film Christian Bale starred in this year that falls under that category, with Amsterdam largely disappointing.

For me, The Pale Blue eye is an excellent concept. Take us back to the 1800’s, show us a death that cannot be explained, have a detective come in, and involve Edgar Allan Poe and you should have yourself the perfect cocktail.

Except, not. Amsterdam tried to really balance this quirky humor against this massive ensemble mystery, and it somehow felt misplaced. Here, you have someone bringing in Edgar Allan Poe, and it’s not even the famous actor in the cast. Christian Bale is playing the regular dude, the Everyman detective. So who did they get to play Poe? Anyone remotely interesting? Not really.

I don’t want to begrudge using breakout talent in films, but a combination of this movie striving to play Poe like any regular guy and do nothing interesting with him, and the film kind of following that tone, just bored me to death. I was so interested for like twenty minutes, then I started to slowly slip further and further away from this film. i did see a critic I respect a lot on YouTube talk about this film, and this one scene where Poe says “Books!” And I was waiting for this moment she loved so much. it came, and it was so underwhelming.

This film should have been Christian Bale and an actor looking to do something different with Poe. If you need him to be young, Timothee Chalamet could have worked here, if you’re allowing for older actors, Johnny Depp and Robert Downey Jr have both played character like this previously, and perhaps might be too obvious so maybe someone a little less obvious who wouldn’t overshadow Bale’s star power, like a Brian D’Arcy james (who got some attention this year for The Cathedral), or even a really bold choice like an Alan Cumming, who just could disappear.

My point is, this film has this great element in having Edgar Allan Poe, and I felt so incredibly bored by him. There’s o reason to be, that’s the whole reason this film feels any different than the billion murder mysteries that have preceded it. Especially if Bale is going to play this straight, he needed an actor who could match him in talent, but understood that playing Poe, a man who would go on to write some of the greatest gothic works and mysteries, needed to be someone who while investigating a murder would do so with at least some flair.

So, yeah, I’m not a fan of this. Some people are. Maybe you will be. i guess it really depends on what you want from this. The audio description is great. it focuses in on quite a bit of the details, realizing that this is a mystery, and you need to know certain things to follow the plot. For example, and this is only a tiny spoiler since the film begins this way, the body found is found hanging in a position where you would not have been able to hang yourself without assistance. Noting the particulars of that, instead of just calling it a hanging body, really helped set the tone out of the gate.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure what this wanted to be as a film, or what even the point was. i’m as disappointed by this as I was by The Wonder and Lady Chatterly’s Lover, though I’d prefer the former over the latter in that pairing. This is just another opportunity of Netflix to have a film in an Oscar conversation they already have quite crowded with All Quiet On The Western Front, The Glass onion, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, The Good Nurse, White Noise, Wendell and Wild, Bardo, Descendent, and Last Flight home. Their campaign budget isn’t enough to support all these films anyway. And this one definitely isn’t getting nominations.

Final Grade: D

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