You see, any time Ewan McGregor is featured in a film, no matter how bad the script or the actors surrounding him, the film will prevail, because he is our Ian McEwan from my Scotland, my homeland, but more than this, McGregor is just an incredible talent. Remember him in such great films as Big Fish, Trainspotting, in others ~ he just has a gift and a way about him that few actors have these days.
Here, in Eye of the Beholder (an otherwise completely passable and neutral film), he plays the role of “Lucky Legs” a.k.a. “The Eye” who works for some department of the British Embassy / diplomatic service. McGregor is the typical geek, secret spy, which I can say because I’m one myself am a geek and so can understand this phenomenon, what it means to have the cool and realistic computer and photographic trappings he does have and more, how to use them in a believable way.
McGregor pulls this off seamlessly. He uses computers believably, even at one point connecting to a modem via an inflight telephone through which he runs his credit card, a brilliant trick that I’ll have to try one day because I found it impressive (oh, you already knew that and how to do it, but I had never seen it until this film and was wildly impressed with this one small gesture. I have to admit, for this film, for me anyway, more than the plot it was the gadgets that sold me on it. I just loved the gadgets and who wouldn’t. A camera that looked like a gun with severarl rounds of lens’s that were of different magnifying strengths, a well as an actual gun to be used in emergencies.
I wonder, maybe he’s just too geeky, but wouldn’t he make the James Bond that I want to see? Okay, yes, I’m partial to a boy from the homeland and I’m partial especially to the handsome McGregor with his geeky sex appeal, I admit, as I wrote in The Sex Appeal of the Socratic that appeared in these very pages). There is just something incredibly charming and alluring about a guy who just doesn’t see his own sexiness or smartness or he does see his smartness and struts his brain, but that’s it.
Strutting your brain is good ~ strut anything else and you just come across looking like all hoochie-coochie like this barely-a-woman I once saw at a friend’s office ~ a cheap and slippery and oily thing, all miserable looking and worse, so desperately trying to catch the attention of the opposite sex. What can I say but blech. McGregor, like anyone who doesn’t sell themselves cheaply, comes across as worth the money you paid to get into the theatre or to rent the film, even if his do costars suck and are no good and most of us would agree, I think, that Ashley Judd, as much as I want to like her, is the same in every movie; there is no nuance, no differentiation. But so what ~ we’re not there for her. We’re there for McEwan and the stuff, the equipment, the geek appeal, and most of all the cool toys.
Yes, McGregor hides behind computer screens all day (who here does not?) but is excellent at his job, cool and collected and removed, though there is a back-story about his lost child and wife because due to his long work hours and dedication to his office etc. and it’s sort of unnecessary though comes in handy at a certain point in which he must chat up Ashley Judd, our murderous heroine (how odd) and try to “save her” which he makes his final mission.
Assigned to follow a dippy kid (a child of a diplomat) who is conniving money from his father and is up to no good, Lucky Legs spies on him as he walks around with a strange but also without a doubt (doubtless) strangely alluring woman on whom he spies, catching them and catches having sex (or about to) one thunderous night (bien sur) in dippy kid’s large-windowed mansion in which he is murdered by a would-be sex partner who hacks him to death, then bursts into tears when the job is done and says, repeatedly while crying “Merry fucking Christmas Daddy…”
Wow, this is one seriously fucked up chick..
Problem is, McGregor sees a woman in trouble and with who else, but the u.h.f. movie queen herself, Ashley Judd, could fill that role, and although I don’t dislike her, and I admit she is good for what she does, but will never be more than that. She will never be Meryl Streep. Judd, no matter how hard she may try to strech her wings, appears as the same character in every film with the same cadence in her voice, same everything, which a good actress can change, believably. Judd does not. Her voice is a monotone ~ like the brrrrrrr-hum of a phone before you dial the number, soothing but irritating at once.
McGregor is incredibly convincing in his role as a real spy as noted for both his use of equipment, his body language, and let’s not forget his awkwardness and general geekiness (remember Trainspotting?) in which he was also believable. Here is no different. He is just as believable if not more in some ways, because the character allows him more leeway here and McGregor, though no doubt was very into Trainspotting, is more suited to a role like this in some ways because it is softer for him and he is a softer, warmer character than Trainspotting really allowed him to be in the final account.
The film also has appearances by singer/songwriter K.D. Lang, who is excellent in her role as liaison at the embassy and very believable – so much so that I wonder why she doesn’t get more parts. She ought to… She’s a fine and believable actress and a good director would do well to put some of his or her money to back Lang even if in a small role at first to check her out. She’s good. She knows what she’s doing and she is sympathetic and believable as a boss and a liaison for Lucky Legs.
The sets or wherever they shot this are incredible and realistic. The embassy in particular is a favorite and is obviously hidden somewhere in a fine townhouse but with all the high-tech gear you’d expect to find at an embassy. It’s pretty incredible really. The film takes its name from McGregor’s codeword to enter the building ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” which must be both a voice print match as well as a finger print match. He must say this every time he calls in to be confirmed, even if his picture shows because you can look like someone, but you can’t sound like someone else ~ and it’s details like these that lend some credence to this film and make it enjoyable, especially for the techno geek who’ll be saying, as I was, “Oh, I want one of those…” And throw in Ewan McGregor for good measure because we really need to talk for five minutes.
Worth seeing. Don’t expect much from Judd or the rest of the cast, but do enjoy McGregor in this role and focus on that.
The rest is cake.
Trivia about Eye of the Beholder: (from Amazon.com)
The director originally wanted Massive Attack to do the music for the film, but the group had broken up by the time the film was ready for scoring.
Director Stephan Elliott had originally envisioned an older woman to play Joanna Eris. However, after Ashley Judd campaigned for the part, he relented.
In official selection at the 1999 Venice Film Festival, the film would later become the #1 film at the American Box Office in its opening week in January 2000.
Thanks for reading,