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Genre: Supernatural mystery/Period Drama
Starring: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell
Director: Neil Burger
Rating: NC-16 (Sexual References)
Year Made: 2006




- Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Neil Burger
- The Making of The Illusionist Featurette
- Jessica Biel on The Illusionist Feature



Languages: English
Subtitles: English/Chinese
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Running Time: 1 hr 49 mins
Region Code: 3
Distributor: Origin Entertainment & Archer Entertainment APPL




A supernatural mystery set at the turn of the 19th century Vienna, The Illusionist is a potent combination of romance, politics and magic. The film stars Academy Award® nominees Edward Norton (Fight Club, American History X) and Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man, Sideways) as two men pitted against each other in a battle of wits.

Norton plays an enigmatic mysterious stage magician, Eisenheim, who bends nature’s laws to his will in front of awestruck crowds. Giamatti co-stars as Vienna’s shrewd Chief Inspector Uhl, a man loyal to the Crown Prince and committed to uphold the law. Jessica Biel (Elizabethtown, Stealth) sizzles as the beautiful and enigmatic Sophie von Teschen, who finds her future inexorably altered when she encounters the man called Eisenheim, who comes dangerously close to unlocking the dark secret of the monarchy that she holds.


How nice would it be if we lived in a world without comparisons?

Michael Bay’s apocalyptic flick Armageddon (1998) won’t be compared with Mimi Leder’s end-of-the-world drama Deep Impact (1998), John Lasseter’s cutesy insect animated feature A Bug’s Life (1998) won’t be compared with Eric Darnell and Tim Johnson’s grimly animated movie Antz (1998), and Neil Burger’s drama mystery about a magician won’t be compared with Christopher Nolan’s drama thriller The Prestige (2006) about, well, two magicians.

In this film adapted from a short story by Steven Millhauser, Edward Norton plays Eisenheim (that’s quite a mouthful of a name to pronounce, if you ask us), a magician who uses his power of creating illusions to secure the love of his life, played by an underrated Jessica “7th Heaven” Biel. Paul “Sideways” Giamatti Rufus Sewell round up the reliable main cast, playing men who stand in Eisenheim’s (this name actually sounds quite classy upon repeated pronouncing!) way of getting his true love back.

So if you think about it, this film is actually a love story, unlike Nolan’s fantasy thriller, which focuses on the magicians’ rivalry. But no thanks to a limited number of screens and limited marketing publicity, this picture did not get that much attention when it was released commercially here.

Burger, a Yale University graduate, directs his second feature film with a heavy hand. The intensity comes from both the story and its visual treatment.

The screenplay weaves plotlines and character developments weightily. Norton’s superb acting is put to good use here. The same can be said about Biel, Giamatti and Sewell’s effortless portrayals of characters.

It is clear that the entire film is shrouded in cloaks of brown and other darkly-shaded colors. This definitely adds to the intriguing mystery that to a certain extent, hypnotizes you with its misty veil of secrecy. Kudos goes to director of photography Dick Pope’s (Vera Drake, Nicholas Nickleby) Oscar-nominated cinematography, as well as Philip Glass’ (The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) BFCA Award-winning music underscore. The mesmerizing images and the hauntingly pressing music certainly add to the spellbinding mood of the 109-minute film.

This is a movie which you should watch without pressure, and certainly, without any preconceived thoughts of comparisons in your mind.


The in-depth “Audio Commentary” by director-writer Burger is satisfying to listen to. He tells us how he compares conjuring magic to conjuring tricks in films to fool our eyes. For instance, check out the scene where Biel is slapped by Sewell in the face. With the help of post production, her face becomes redder instantly!

There is a four-minute “The Making of The Illusionist Featurette” where the cast and crew tells us obligatory about the story of the movie. Then there is a two-minute “Jessica Biel on The Illusionist Feature” which has her praising the film’s ingenuity. The disc is rounded up by an impressively edited “Theatrical Trailer” that prepares you for the intense mood of the film.


The disc’s visual transfer complements the gloriously compelling cinematography by Pope very nicely, and the audio track is available in Dolby Digital English 5.1.



Review by John Li


. The Illusionist (Movie Review)

Other titles from Origin Entertainment:

. Ghost Rider

. The Pursuit of Happyness


This review is made possible with the kind support from Origin Entertainment


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