Is The Pale Blue Eye based on a true story?

By Miguel Fernández
Published: January 6, 2023 (Last updated: February 1, 2023)

Is The Pale Blue Eye based on a true story? We discuss the popular Netflix movie and the accuracy and truth behind it. 

Scott Cooper’s latest film, which reunites him with his Hostiles star Christian Bale, is The Pale Blue Eye. The film is a murder mystery focused on a series of hideous crimes committed against military cadets in the first half of the 19th century. The investigation will soon involve the presence of a young Edgar Allan Poe, the famous author who was also a cadet in the Military Academy at the time.

The Pale Blue Eye is currently available to stream on Netflix after enjoying a two-week limited theatrical release. Critics have been mixed on it, with the movie sitting at a 68% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes from almost 100 reviews; 73% of the audience that logged their thoughts into the site also gave their thumbs up. Our own review called it “a breathtaking-looking gothic picture that’s uneven because of how horrendously overacted the entire experience can be.”

What is the movie The Pale Blue Eye about?

The Pale Blue Eye follows detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) as he’s hired by the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, in 1830, to investigate the murder of one of their cadets, who was hanged and then had his heart ripped out of his chest. Bale will soon enlist the help of another cadet and aspiring poet named Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling).

As the investigation proceeds its course, more bodies are found and the circle of suspects starts to close in on a few people. Poe also starts a relationship with Lea Marquis (Lucy Boynton), the daughter of Dr. Daniel Marquis (Toby Jones), who performed the autopsies, and we learn a lot about Landor’s backstory. His wife died a few years earlier, and his daughter is out of the picture too, so he’s now living by himself in the woods, not far from the Military Academy.

Is The Pale Blue Eye based on a true story?

Not exactly. It is true that Edgar Allan Poe was a military cadet at the Academy in West Point in 1830, but there is no record of any satan-worshipping murders happening around that time, or an Augustus Landor investigating any of it. Poe, who at the time was indeed an aspiring poet, would become interested in writing prose after he left the Academy, writing for literary journals and periodicals, according to Wikipedia.

In October of 1830, he did get married to a woman named Louisa Patterson, his second wife. It didn’t last long, and in fact, in early 1830 he was purposely court-martialed, forcing him to leave West Point. None of this is depicted in the movie, though.

What is The Pale Blue Eye based on?

The film is based on the 2006 novel by Louis Bayard of the same name and is one of the first to play around with the idea of Edgar Allan Poe becoming the next Shakespeare in modern literature, in the sense that he’s now a historical, literary figure involved in fictionalized stories. The Pale Blue Eye has been compared to 1998’s Best Picture winner Shakespeare In Love for that reason.

The Pale Blue Eye is currently available on Netflix. Have you checked it out, or do you intend to do it? Let us know your thoughts after you do in the comments below!

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