The Pale Blue Eye

Melancholy, misleading murder mystery

When a cadet at West Point circa 1830 is found hanged with his heart cut out (and then another), it falls to famed but retired and world-weary detective Augustine Landor (Christian Bale) to solve the case. His investigation immediately runs up against the military institution’s code of silence, but one young cadet (Henry Melling, perfect) is willing to buck the rules and offer some amateur help. His name is Edgar Allan Poe. A gimmicky premise, maybe, but it won’t seem so by the time the end credits roll. Scott Cooper’s (Crazy Heart, Hostiles) glacially paced, melancholy procedural will not appeal to those looking for a thrill-packed murder mystery. No, this is a film for lovers of good acting.

The superb interaction between the two leads is backed up by such luminaries as Timothy Spall, Toby Jones, Simon McBurney, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Gillian Anderson and even Robert Duvall. Landor eventually traces the murder to a satanist cabal, and brings the case to a fiery conclusion. But, ah. Movie buffs and amateur sleuths alike will find something amiss if they notice that this happens at a point only two thirds through the film. And the true resolution, and the real culprit, I would never have guessed, even though all the clues are clearly on display.

On Netflix. (128 min).