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movie reviews
The Pale Blue Eye

The Pale Blue Eye

Scott Cooper and Christian Bale return with a dark thriller.

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Although the name "Scott Cooper " is not exactly a fixture of pop culture, he's actually now quite an influential director, having written and directed a number of landmark films that walk the tightrope between more intimate indie filmmaking and something far grander.

His films command budgets, featuring strong performances from a dedicated ensemble cast, but it would be hard to call them "easy viewing." Films like Out of the Furnace and Hostiles are decidedly hard to watch, as they portray desperate fates and eerie scenarios. Of course, he's also made more traditional popcorn entertainment, such as Black Mass and, most recently, the tedious horror Antlers, which we gave some particularly harsh words to.

The Pale Blue Eye
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The Pale Blue Eye follows closely in the footsteps of Cooper's earlier works in terms of tone, consisting of long shadows, dark intentions and man at his most selfish, brutal and hypocritical. Cooper's films are always about the worst in us, but also about the understandable motivations behind violent actions.

The Pale Blue Eye is a detective film in broad strokes though, and we are presented with an investigation from end to end where Landor, in best Sherlock Holmes fashion, constantly indicates to the viewer that he is one step ahead. Yes, there are complications, and malice, but Cooper always manages to anchor it in nature. Here it's the snowy New York oaks, candlelit tavernas and pompous autopsy rooms, and it combines to make a film that can only be called visually compelling from end to end.

Everyone also delivers measured but compelling performances. Bale in particular is decidedly understated here, but always manages to evoke a central believability in his characters. He's just one of the best actors in the world, no doubt about it. It's Harry Melling who steals the show, though, thanks to his fragile, poetic and sometimes slightly overplayed take on Edgar Allan Poe. I predict a bright career for him though, and against Bale's brusque wit it's a pretty effective duo.

The Pale Blue Eye
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That's not to say The Pale Blue Eye doesn't have problems. It's evidence here and there of a film that's been pieced together somewhat differently during the final stages of production, as if something is missing here and there. It's often random in these modern whodunnit movies, and it's not that it doesn't work. But certain conclusions happen too abruptly, without the right fanfare to create the necessary suspense. There are a few scenes that simply lack the gravitas the film wants to create, and that's a huge shame, when "catching up" with everything Landor already knows is a crucial narrative tool.

It's not Cooper's finest work, but proves once again that visually and narratively he's one to watch out for, and you can spend time on far, far worse films here at the start of the new year.

07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
overall score
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