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.
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.
would it be if we lived in a world without comparisons?
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.
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.
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.
a Yale University graduate, directs his second feature film
with a heavy hand. The intensity comes from both the story
and its visual treatment.
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
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.
is a movie which you should watch without pressure, and certainly,
without any preconceived thoughts of comparisons in your mind.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
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.
by John Li