The Pale Blue Eye review – baffled, beardy Christian Bale in gruesome murder yarn
Set in 1830, a mildly ridiculous plot sends a haunted Bale to investigate the gothic killing of a military cadet
As a director, Scott Cooper has achieved a reputation for handling the tough textures of the western; now he applies that expertise to this enjoyable if entirely preposterous historical mystery thriller, adapted by Cooper from the 2003 bestseller by Louis Bayard, an author renowned for his ingenious reimaginings of real-life historical figures and famous fictional characters.
The Pale Blue Eye takes place in 1830 and Christian Bale, in full haunted/bearded mode (the same that he had for Cooper’s 2017 western drama Hostiles), plays renowned detective Augustus Landor; he is in a semi-retired, semi-hermit state, a sad widower whose daughter has disappeared. But Landor is strangely taken with a grotesque case that is put to him. A cadet at the US military academy in West Point has been murdered; hanged and his heart cut out of his body. Various glowering and bewhiskered senior officers (played by Simon McBurney and Timothy Spall) are prepared to overlook Landor’s boozy insolent attitude because of his reputation for brilliant crime-solving.