Director James McTeigue (“V For Vendetta”, “Ninja Assassin”) is the man behind the 2012 mystery thriller movie “The Raven”.
Set in the year 1849, the film finds Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack – “High Fidelity”, “Serendipity”) in the last days of his life and gives an imagined reason for his life’s end.
In reality Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore in great distress. Reportedly he repeatedly called out the name Reynolds but was unable to give any indication as to how he came to be in the state he was, and he died in hospital a matter of days later.
In this film, Poe is broke, unable to get his work published by his local newspaper anymore and in love with Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve – “She’s Out Of My League”, “Before We Go”) despite the vigorous objections of her father, Captain Charles Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson – “Stonehearst Asylum”, “In Bruges”).
Police attending a house where a screaming woman has been heard break into a room, which was locked from the inside, to find her murdered and the murderer gone – despite the locked door and windows. Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans – “Dracula Untold”, “Immortals”) is called in to work on the investigation are realises that the crime is reminiscent of one that he read about in Poe’s fictional story “Murders In The Rue Morgue”.
Fields calls Poe in for questioning and when a rival critic is found murdered in circumstances similar to those on Poe’s “The Pit And The Pendulum” they realise that someone is deliberately using Poe’s work as a template for the grisly crimes.
When Emily is abducted from her father’s masked ball, in keeping with the “Masque Of The Red Death” story, the killer demands that Poe write and publish accounts of his murderous spree in the local newspaper to save Emily’s life, and leaves clues for Fields and Poe to try to work out…
I must say that, although perhaps not regarded as a conventional A-list movie star, I have always enjoyed Cusack’s work. In fact I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a bad film with him in – “The Sure Thing”, “Say Anything”, “The Thin Red Line”, “High Fidelity”, “Serendipity”, “Identity”, “The Ice Harvest”, “1408”, “The Frozen Ground”… the list goes on – there probably are some duds somewhere in his career but I’ve yet to find them.
He is again excellent here as the tortured Poe. Often drunk, desperate, ranting at people, Cusack delivers a convincing performance for sure, whilst Evans, Eve and the rest of the cast offer very good support.
The idea of the movie is a clever one, I thought. Taking the real life Poe and using his own stories to weave a gothic mystery detective story with elements of horror around the mystery of his death.
Some of the plot twists are a little unlikely, but overall both my wife and I found this to be an engaging and highly entertaining film. Definitely recommended…