The Pale Blue Eye – The West Point Murders, review: a disturbing investigation by Edgar Allan Poe

The Pale Blue Eye – The West Point Murders, review: a disturbing investigation by Edgar Allan Poe

The Pale Blue Eye – The West Point Murders, review

If Netflix's Christmas present was Benoit Blanc's second investigation with Glass Onion, to start the new year Reed Hastings' streaming service aims to involve its subscribers with a new crime film, moving the emotional figure from the funny approach of Rian Johnson to the more tense and biting one of Scott Cooper, director of The Pale Blue Eye – the West Point Crimes. After a rapid passage in American theaters during the Christmas period, a practice adopted by streaming channels to be able to enter their productions in the Oscar lottery, the new Netflix film is preparing to reach the small screen on January 6, showing us a tormented Christian Bale alongside by none other than Edgar Allan Poe .

The fictionalized presence of the famous gothic novelist is the result of a historically real element, his brief stay in the famous military academy at West Point, which has become the cornerstone of a novel by Louis Bayard, author known for being a specialist in this type of story, where historical characters and real events are adapted within a fictitious scenario, showing surprising aspects. Stimulated by the figure of Poe, Cooper does not fail to rework Bayard's intuition in a film with cold and disturbing tones, finding once again in Bale, with whom he has already collaborated on Hostiles and Revenge Fire, an excellent interpreter for the tormented detective Augustus Landor.

Netflix explores the myth of Edgar Allan Poe with the disturbing investigation of The Pale Blue Eye – The West Point Murders

In the winter of 1830, the military academy of West Point is tormented by a series of heinous crimes. The first case is the hanging of a cadet, from whose corpse kept in the morgue of the structure the heart is removed. An act of inexplicable cruelty that pushes the leaders of the military school to request the help of a man believed to be the best investigator in the area: Augustus Landor. Once one of New York's top detectives, Landor is now a broken soul after the death of his wife and the mysterious disappearance of his daughter. Known for his exceptional intuition and his atypical approach to investigations, Landor is then assigned to solve this brutal murder, despite the hostility of the military environment to his edgy and irreverent personality.

To be able to move freely throughout the Within the close-minded military, Landor finds in young cadet Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling) an unusual but promising ally. In Poe, a man who seems anything but inclined for military life, Landor discovers a restless soul, linked to an intimate spiritualism that leads him to convince himself that he hears the voice of his dead mother, but above all a young man who lives his perennial feeling of being a pariah by constructing a fictitious personality based on a poetic vein that from fiction will become his artistic personality. An atypical pair of detectives, founded on torment as a tool to better understand the cracks in the human soul, which allows Landor and Poe to reveal the disturbing truth behind what appears to be a series of ritual murders.

The aspect of bland esotericism certainly could not be lacking in a story involving a figure dear to horror enthusiasts like Poe. In the American novelist's production, the declination of horror does not touch the sphere of gore or physicality, but focuses on the emotional sphere, aiming at a feeling of oppressive tension that leads to almost liberating moments. Bayard himself, author of the story on which The Pale Blue Eye is based, takes the famous story The Telltale Heart as a starting point, a starting point that links this story to the myth of Poe, suggesting to Cooper how delicately present the typical iconography of the writer.

Cooper does not fail, in fact, to gracefully mention clear references to Poe's imagery, from the omnipresent crow to the quick mention of Lenore, the sad protagonist of a poem of Poe whose origins are blandly traced back to this early feat of the novelist. Playing on these aspects, Cooper sets up an investigation that is mainly based on the intimate aspect of the protagonists, allowing little space for smiles and serenity, aiming instead to show a suffering and cursed humanity, letting the most tormented souls guide this macabre dance. A vision that seems to be the distinctive trait of Cooper's artistic vision, which in The Pale Blue Eye is declined in an icy visual portrait, characterized by a photography that favors cold tones, broken by sudden flashes of heat heralding moments of disturbing revelation.

A narrative weave that seeks a simplicity of the investigative element, leaving the trace of the protagonists' suffered emotionality to dominate. Bale once again immerses himself in a character in a total way, making himself the perfect interpreter, bringing to the screen a tormented Landor, in search of a fake refuge fueled by alcohol but still sufficiently lucid to be able to operate as an unparalleled investigator. A role that sees a perfect partner in Melling's Poe, who behind his melancholy rebel mask hides a fragile personality, atypical in his passions yet fascinating for his peculiar affinity to gothic poetics and his predisposition to drama.

Suffered humanity and atavistic mysteries

Two intense protagonists who are further enhanced by a first-rate cast, among which the mysterious expert of occultism stands out played by a calm Robert Duvall and the Marquis spouses, played by the extraordinary couple Tobey Jones and Gillian Anderson. Central to the story of The Pale Blue Eye – The West Point Murders, the Marquis are presented as an apparently traditional family, but the two actors do not fail to skillfully let the typical features of a terrible hidden secret emerge, which slowly and meandering takes more and more shape, resulting in hysterical madness that leads to an ancient ritualism. Tobey Jones moves on the scene with a measured and appreciable acting, while Gillian Anderson has a more disruptive role, made up of noble mannerisms and darting emotional outbursts.

Intense interpretations that require commitment both expressive and vocal, a trait that in the Italian adaptation leaves something to be desired in some passages, especially for Anderson, who in the Italian audio is cloying at times, making a key character in the plot almost an operetta speck and not a characterized woman by a personality linked to ancient traditions.

With The Pale Blue Eye – The West Point Crimes, Netflix offers its viewers a crime story with the disturbing hues typical of Poe's poetics, aiming for a biting emotional pressure on the viewer. Cooper directs carefully, making the most of the winter setting to create a parallelism with the cold inner world of the characters, helping to create a story devoid of warmth but strongly human in its tragedy.

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