Eye of the Beholder

dir-scr Stephan Elliott
with Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, KD Lang, Patrick Bergin, Genevieve Bujold, Jason Priestley, Anne-Marie Brown, Kaitlin Brown, David Nerman, Steven McCarthy, Vlasta Vrana
99/Canada 3 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
With an intensely interesting visual style, writer-director Elliott (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) crafts the thriller Eye of the Beholder into something absolutely fascinating to watch--like a cross between Hitchcock (Vertigo, North by Northwest) and Coppola (The Conversation) as it examines obsession and privacy. But unlike the masters, Elliott doesn't seem to have anywhere to go with his premise.

The central character is a British high-tech surveillance officer (McGregor) who becomes fixated on a murderous woman (Judd) and follows her across America, watching her every move, piecing together her history and anticipating her next move. And then he starts getting involved in her life as she meets various men (including blind millionaire Bergin and bleached-blond thug Priestley). All the while, our hero is consumed by guilt about how his obsession with his work has cost him his wife and young daughter, who haunts him. Meanwhile, his link at the base office (Lang) starts to lose patience with his obsessive ways.

The film maintains its story perfectly from the beginning, creating a gorgeous atmosphere and layering the story with hints of thriller, mystery, romance and psychological drama. The guardian angel metaphor is an especially nice touch, and McGregor gets the balance just right between moping hound dog and aggressive investigator. And the film's design is stunning--the technology has a timeless quality to it that blends perfectly with ingenious location details, costumes and special effects. So it's a shame that the story has nowhere to go--after dropping lots of tantalising clues, it only barely comes together at the end, opting for a strong emotional conclusion that can't satisfy after all the intrigue that's gone before.

[18--themes, violence, language] 16.May.00
US release 28.Jan.00; UK release 9.Jun.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall