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The Illusionist is one of several magician-based movies that all came out across a similar time period and stars Edward Norton (of Fight Club and American History X fame) in the title role.
As a young boy, Norton has always dreamed of being a magician and demonstrates his ability as a prestidigateur to his would-be sweetheart, a young girl he is forbidden from seeing because of a cultural divide. When the pair hide out in a bid to prevent her being moved away, they are discovered and Norton fears he will never set eyes on her again. But decades later, at a staged performance for Crown Prince Leopold, he is shocked to discover her not just at the Prince's side but also being offered up as a volunteer in his show! Almost instantly their long-lost love is re-kindled and the pair make plans to escape together but the cfrazed Prince, who has a history of beating his lovers and ill-treating them, has other plans......can The Illusionist pull off his greatest trick ever?
Much like The Prestige, this is a tragic tale but one with a slightly weaker cast. There are many who prefer this to Nolan's tale but I am sorry to say that I am not amongst their number. Though I like both films, for me personally Prestige is just ahead on points! Still this is a highly competent movie and if The Prestige did not exist, mayhaps I might be able to like this more! Norton is , of course as always, amazing as The Illusionist of the title and steals every scene he is in with his presence but Paul Giamatti puts in an equally sterling performance as the man determined to crack Norton's tricks and discover their secret!
Ultimately, this film suffers from being a tad predictable though the tricks performed are astounding and much more elaborate than those in The Prestige. But whilst The Prestige feels more authentic, more statoned in reality and believable, on the contrary, The Illusionist feels more like a fable or fairy tale! This is not a bad thing but just one more thing that swings Prestige in my favour!
Ultimately, this is a very good movie but if you have seen The Prestige, you might want to wait a while before watching this! I had the misfortune of watching both these films quite close together (they were both on telly within days of each other) and that is the only reason I feel the need to compare. But though they share similar themes, both these films are seperate with their own unique and distinct personalities!
Overall, this is an above-average movie that, despite Norton'e excellent performance, still suffers from a slightly inferior plot.
FILM ONLY REVIEW
I always admire Edward Norton as he did a lot of excellent film that I consider worthy of our time. I'm sure most of you remembered him in the red dragon, incredible hulk and the italian job, just few of his remarkable work ,and he never failed me with this film as well. Edward Norton's performance really sold this film for me, so if your not yet a fan , you will definitely become one after this film.
I actually have seen this film few years ago so when I had the chance to see it again last monday on ITV2, I decided to sit down and enjoy the film once again. Well , as it keep me entertained for the second time I thought it would be great to share it through writing a review.
Edward Norton - Eisenheim
Paul Giamatti - Inspector Uhl
Jessica Biel - Sophie
Rufus Sewell - Crown Prince Leopold
Eddie Marsan - Josef Fischer (as Edward Marsan)
Jake Wood - Jurka
The Illusionist is set in 1900, in Vienna Austria and tells the story of an illusionist that goes by the name of Eisenheim. Eisenheim is a highly talented Magician who performs impossible illusions, and holds his audience captivated. The story started on the theatre stage were Eisenheim was in almost trance like state, which then followed by the chaos and dozens of policemen storm the stage, to arrest him for outraging public decency. The opening scene is actually a snippet from the latter part as from here the story flashes back to Eisenheim's childhood. When Eisenheim was a child, he befriended a young lady named Sophie, who was revealed to be a Duchess. Sophie was royalty and Eisenheim was a working class boy. Their social standing would not permit them to be friends so they were torn apart. Eisenheim was left heartbroken and never recover from losing her. As they lived their separate lives for many years, Eisenheim become famous and performed successfully to large crowds in Vienna. Until one fateful evening, the two meet while Eisenheim is performing a trick with the Duchess. The two rekindle their friendship, but were stopped by Crown Prince Leopold of Austria, a controlling violent man who wants Sophie as his own.
The love story plays a very big part on how the illusionist motivates himself to use his magic to gain back the love of his life that was cruelly taken away from him. The conclusion of the film is something that is really hard to predict. It explores the battle between truth and illusion, and this challenges the audience's perceptions right until the end.
We truly enjoyed this film and I highly recommend it to anyone. The acting of all the characters are brilliant including the setting that was spot on, especially the twist that nobody could ever see it coming. The film has full of mystery, enough to keep you guess wether everything you see and know to be true or is it just an illusion?
Certification - PG (for mild sex and violence)
Thank you for reading ;-D
also posted on ciao under the same name.
A bewitching maze of mist and myth
The Illusionist is a 2006 movie staring Ed Norton and Jessica Biel. It's a great period movie with some wonderful costumes and all the mystery and suspense of magic in 1900 Vienna.
Is what you see and know to be true or is it just an Illusion? This is the way I would sum up this movie. Ed Norton plays the magician or Illusionist as he is known, Eisenheim. He is a stage magician and people come from far and wide to see him as his brand of magic is very well know. In his youth, Eisenheim fell in love with Sophie, the Duchess von Teschen but as she is in a higher social circle than him her parents forbid them to be friends and Eisenheim eventually leaves and travels the world where he, we assume, perfects his amgic as his past is never truly revealed. It's during a performance that he meets Sophie again. She is now engaged to Crown Prince Leopold. Leopold does not like their blossoming friendship and vows to destroy Eisenheim. The rest of the movie then follows the story of how he plans to do this but finds he is thwarted by the cunning of Eisenheim. It's a really good story and very clever in places but maybe a bit predictable.
The filming in this movie in certain parts is quite weird and is almost like an optical illusion with characters blurring and contorting at different times. I had to ask my friend who I was wtching it with whether it was just my eyes or actually the vision on the screen that was moving. I think it was strange but just added to the suspense and mystery in the movie. It was quite a dark movie and murky and did not have much colour but this I think also portrays the smoke screen illusions of the movie.
Ed Norton I think was his usual mysterious self. I think he is one of those actors that keeps very much to himself and is not in the spotlight too much but also to me comes across as a little bit aloof and I think as this is the character he seems to be it suits the part very well. Jessica Biel, aka Mrs Justin Timberlake plays her part well too. She is a really pretty actress in my opinion and I think this is one of her first films as she made her acting start in American television.
According to an article I read, as of June 29, 2008 the film has earned worldwide box office receipts of $87,892,388, including $39,868,642 in the United States, exceeding its reported $16.5 million budget. In the first five months after it was released on DVD in January 2007, the film earned $35.99 million in rental revenue.
The DVD is rated PG as it contain infrequent moderate violence, mild sex and language. It runs for approximately 104 minutes and special features include the director's commentary and The Making of the Illusionist.
Last evening I was watching ITV when the News finished and this film was next on. To be honest, a mixture of laziness (couldn't be bothered finding the remote) and inquisitiveness, I thought I'd give this film a go.
It dates back to 2006 and is directed by Neil Burger,the same guy who also directed Interview with the Assassin. It runs for 110minutes and the budget spent was $17 million pounds.
It is based in the early 20th Century and is all in period costume. The film starts with the end (if that makes sense) with the police inspector recounting a story of an illusionist called Eisenheim,who had met a magician when he was a child, and learnt lots of illusions. He practices this throughout his life, performing in front of audiences throughout Europe.
A film wouldn't be the same, unless it has a love story, and this is not missing here. Eisenheim (played in his later years by Edward Norton, falls for a young lady called Sophie played by the gorgeous Jessica Biel.
His main mistake is that by the time they meet up again, after a long absence, she has already committed her love to the Crown Prince Leopold, played by Rufus Sewell. A big mistake, as obviously this is going to have repercussions. The story continues with these two having their run ins.
Personally I didn't really enjoy the film. It was set in scenes which were dark and dull. Some of the story was hard to follow, and the story line was too clever for its own good. As I said earlier, it didn't cost me anything, so I didn't feel ripped off in anyway. However I would certainly not recommend anybody rush out and buy it.
The Illusionist is a thoroughly enjoyable drama which is well worth a viewing. A historical drama is it set in the late 19th Centuary, Edward Norton plays a man called Eisenheim who enjoys performing magic tricks, he encounters and falls for a beautiful young girl called Sophie, played by Jessica Biel however they come from very different social circles and she is too high class for him and so their relationship is not allowed to flourish. It should be noted that different actors play their younger versions that shows the initial relationship as the story then jumps forward 15 years and Eisenheim is now part of a travelling show.
Performing his show in Vienna he gains access to the court of Prince Leopold, played by Rufus Sewell, who is to be married to Sophie and once again the two star crossed lovers are bought back into contact. Paul Giamatti plays the police chief tasked by the Prince to look into the life and behaviour of Eisenheim and a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins to unfold.
Norton is excellent in the lead role, as he is in most things that he does and in this film he delivers a flamboyant performance. This is a film that you need to allow to develop as it is a bit slow to get started but it is well worth persevering with as it is an entertaining tale and a well woven plot.
It is a nice period piece with some good sepcial effects to create the illusions and the strong cast make it a joy to watch. Definitely worth watching and you can buy it on Amazon for £4.15 which is a fair price.
I rented this from Blockbusters as part of their 5 films for £5 promotion. It can currently be purchased from Amazon for £4.98. Based on a short story by Steven Millhauser, The Illusionist was released in 2006 and was directed by Neil Burger.
The film revolves around illusionist Eisenheim in Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century. As Eisenheim becomes more popular with audiences the Crown Prince Leopold and chief of police Uhl set out to expose him as a fraud. Meanwhile Eisenheim is rekindling a relationship with his childhood sweetheart Duchess Sophie who is now engaged to the Crown Prince.
I am not a particular lover of period pieces but the fantasy and romance fuse together beautifully to make this an enjoyable film. Although the basis of the plot (lovers from different sides of the track) is a common one, this film adds other elements that take it away from being another boring Romance. The mystery and suspense made the film more appealing and the well cast actors enhanced it greatly. The viewer is cleverly given enough information to have an understanding of the characters and plot without giving too much away. I didn't find the film brilliant but it was definitely entertaining and kept me absorbed the whole way through.
I thought the sets fitted into the period beautifully and really help to create the right atmosphere. The costumes are perfect for the era and character status, adding depth, colour and warmth to the surroundings. The music is very apt and adds to the scenes well by heightening feelings and emotions especially when Eisenheim is performing.
Eisenheim was a little bit introverted for me. I think it would have been nice if he had had more to say. I know this was probably done to make him more mysterious and appear brooding but as a viewer I thought it would have been nice to know more of what he was thinking and feeling. Edward Norton was perfect for the role, he played the conjuror with great conviction and it came across on screen how dedicated he was.
Jessica Biel played Duchess Sophie with grace and beauty. Although in her previous films I felt she was cast for her good looks and not her talent, she brings warmth to the role and her elegance and beauty are perfect for her character.
Crown Prince Leopold played by Rufus Sewell is the perfect villain for this piece. He is easy to dislike from the outset as he tries to belittle Eisenheim during a private performance. Later he becomes increasingly desperate to expose his magic as fraudulent and the lengths he goes to and gets others to go to on his behalf have no boundaries. He is arrogant and obnoxious and Sewell does a great job of portraying him.
One of my favourite characters was Uhl, played by Paul Giamatti. He spends the film battling with his obligations to the Crown Prince and his own morals. I was unsure how it would play out but he was great at the end of the film when he realises how Eisenheim performs his greatest illusion of all.
Taken at face value this film is an enjoyable watch. It kept me guessing and kept an air of mystery around itself throughout. The actors did a great job and the plot was interesting enough although not entirely original. I would say it was a classic romance with fantasy and intrigue thrown in.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
2006 was some year for magic: we had Christopher Nolan's brilliant The Prestige, Woody Allen's beguiling but fun film Scoop, and the little-known magician period drama The Illusionist. Although it had a small release due The Prestige dominating the market, it did gather a cult following on DVD, and has since become regarded as one of the better films of 2006.
The film begins with Chief Inspector Walter Uhl (Paul Giamatti) recounting to a crowd the story of Eisenheim the Illusionist, a poor young boy who quickly gained an interest in magic and then managed to rise as a famed magician who was able to make himself disappear. In this course he also falls in love with Duchess von Teschen (Jessica Biel), who is well above his social standing, but the two are undoubtedly drawn towards one another. A lot of the film revolves around how Eisenheim is able to pull off some of his seemingly impossible magic tricks, as well as a murder mystery that makes the town suspect that perhaps Eisenheim is behind it.
This is a great period thriller that boasts a compelling central mystery - as to whether Eisenheim really is a magician - and follows through with a satisfying climax that is deviously clever. It also has another plot twist to follow up, cementing how slick and smart the film is. Although it suffered from being released next to The Prestige, The Illusionist is still an engaging, intelligent little film with deep characterisation and a crackling plot. Criminally overlooked, Norton puts on a great performance as Eisenheim the illusionist, and the supporting cast (namely Giamatti) serve up sterling efforts also.
The Illusionist is a magical film set in Vienna in the early 1900s. It tells the story of Edward, who becomes known as Eisenheim, a great illusionist, from his early childhood to the peak of his career.
As a child he meets a Duchess, but when her family find them playing together at his house, they take her away and ban them from seeing each other, as he is just a commoner, and not suitable company for a Duchess. However, they keep meeting up, and over their teenage years fall in love.
When they decide to run away together, her family and guardians hear of the plan, and intervene, ensuring that she doesn't go anywhere. The police threaten that if Edward sees her again, he will be arrested, so he leaves to travel the world.
We then rejoin the story 15 years later where Eisenheim the Illusionist is performing in Vienna, and Sophie the Duchess is engaged to the Prince.
When they meet again, they fall in love, but for Sophie, leaving the Prince is no easy task, and she fears for her life if she were to leave him.
This is around the point where you begin to think that the film is turning into too much of a love story, and possibly a tragic one at that. However, as the story unfolds, it shows itself to be so much more than that.
Right up until the film is almost concluding, the viewer may think they know where the film is going, and that the "baddies" will be brought to justice. However, there is a twist right at the end which I certainly didn't guess, which makes the whole story much more enjoyable, and makes it a really clever film.
Well worth a watch.
Edward Norton stars here as Eisenheim, the magician/illusionist of the title. Set in Vienna around 1900, the film follows the story of the commoner Eisenheim as he tries to win the love of his life (Jessica Biel), a woman of class and breeding. Eisenheim is something of a revelation in that his illusions are a distance above anything else seen at the time. When the girl is forced to become engaged to the Crown Prince (Rufus Sewell being delightfully evil with his slightly uneven eyes) our hero steps in to save her, using his popular show summoning spirits to ridicule the prince and challenge his authority. A police inspector (played by the always watchable Paul Giamatti) is instructed by the Prince to investigate Eisenheim and get rid of him if possible. The mystery and suspense in the film come from the questions of whether Eisenheim will be able to save his beloved, will he himself escape the inspectors grasp, and is what he does true magic or just illusion.
The plot handles all these questions well and keeps moving at a rapid enough pace that I was riveted the entire film and kept guessing until the end as to what happened and how who did what. The characters are very well cast, Norton is his usual high standard, Sewell is nasty and Giamatti brings a touch of sarcastic humour to everything I see him in. Jessica Biel doesn't have a lot asked of her in this, kept as the prize being fought for rather than an interesting person in her own right although she has a few good scenes.
If you like this take a look at 'The Prestige'. It came out at about the same time and has a similar setting and story.
The Illusionist is an intensely dramatic and mystical film. Having watched and thoroughly enjoyed The Prestige, I did not expect The Illusionist to be as compelling a watch. Many reviewers have compared the two, but they are very different, albeit set in very similar eras.
The Prestige was about magic, but this film explores the battle between truth and illusion, and this challenges the audience's perceptions right until the end. Similar to The Prestige, this film has you on the edge of your seat, trying to predict the end, but it will surprise you enormously. I am disappointed that most reviews on this film have been negative, as I think it is a work of genius, and as an intellectual audience member, my thoughts were provoked right until the end.
The casting is fantastic, Ed Norton is a very enigmatic, dark and steely character which is absolutely perfect to play a gifted illusionist, and as the vast amount of the cast is unknown and have not been typecast by previous roles, they can play their roles more effectively and convincingly to the audience.
The love story within this film plays a big part in the illusionists role and his motivations, as he uses this magic to gain back the love of his life that was cruelly taken away from him when he was younger. The conclusion of the film is something you won't have been able to predict, and in the same way as The Prestige, if you want a film to stimulate your brain, I wholeheatedly recommend this.
You can purchase this film on play.com for an amazing £5.00 and it is well worth it. This film definitely earns a brilliant 5 stars in my opinion!
The start & structure of this film are quite weird as the film actually starts about 10 minutes from the end of the story as the illusionist Isenheim (played very well by Ed Norton who suited this role perfectly, I couldn't think of anyone better to cast) is being arrested. We then go back over his life from his childhood through to modern day, slowing catching up on how he discovered magic and met a sorcerer as a child.
Meeting a local girl who turns out to be a duchess (Jessica Biel who I'm not overly familar with but had been in Stealth & Cellular but I don't remember her in either film) and he falls in love with her but their love is forbidden as he is a peasant (the son of a cabinet maker).
They try to run away together but are caught and she is sent away and he decides to roam the world on a journey of discovery and learning magic. The film looks wonderful, the magic tricks are amazing and the cool final twist in the plot is sheer brilliance. Watch it & love it. The film is a PG, not suitable for the kids really.
This film pretty much started my love for Edward Norton. I had never really heard of him as an actor before, never really paid much attention to his work, but after seeing him in this film and then American History X and couple of days later, I was mesmerised.
Eisenhiem was only a young boy when his first love was taken from him because of their different social classes. Eisenheim has a passion for magic, and years later he rediscovers his childhood sweetheart Sophie while he is touring only to find she is now engaged to Prince Leopold.
Leopold shows a dislike to Eisenhiem because of the fact he won't deflate his illusions and the chemistry between Eisenhiem and Sophie. Prince Leopold gets Chief Inspector Uhl to handle Eisenhiem.
Edward Norton plays Eisenhiem, the young magician who is all about the trick of illusion. Ed Norton is a truly mesmerising actor. Each role he plays, he plays a completely different character. For those of you that have seen his work, I assume you know what I mean.
Jessica Biel plays Sophie. The Princess the Eisenhiem falls for when they are young and finds her years later. I was surprised at how good Biel was, I had seen her in other films and just found she was quite bland. I thought she would remind me of Johansson in The Prestige, but she really made you like her which added to the film.
Paul Giamatti plays a Inspector Uhl a very important part in the movie, he plays a man who is unsure of whom he serves. He's one of those actors that seems to be in everything, but you never remember his name. I think this film really defined what a great actor he is for me.
Rufus Sewell plays the Prince, pretty much plays the part he played in A Knights Tale again. Nothing different there but he's still a brilliant actor.
The film is just brilliant, it's full of twist and turns that will have you guessing. Unlike The Prestige, the film is very light. The magic seems a lot more believable and you do really believe that everything you see is an Illusion.
The basis of the story is boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy finds girl, but there's a problem etc etc, however the aspect of magic or I should say illusion in the film, just makes it that much better.
The film is adapted from a short story, so the dialogue is kept to a minimal. This is where the fantastic casting came in with Edward Norton; he's able to do more brilliant acting through his eyes than through his mouth. The film is full of mystery, the fact that it pretty much tells you that everything you see could be an illusion just makes you keep guessing everything.
The performances are just brilliant, you can't really expect any more from them.
The twist is simple and the story line has been done hundreds of times before, but the magic/illusion side of things is what brings it out.
I think the film was kept back with the rating. I think if they had gone for a 12A the film would have excelled a lot more than it's competitor The Prestige, because of this however, it became quite a simple, light magic film which made it just that little bit inferior to The Prestige.
Should You Watch It
I would say yes, it's a great film, not very dark so you can defitneytly watch it with the kids, but still enjoy it yourself. If your looking for a light film about magic, this is for you, if your looking for a dark film about magic, choose The Prestige. Edward Norton's performance really sold this film for me, so if you're not a fan already, I'm sure you will be after this film.
Hoped this helped.
It's the turn of the century and childhood sweet hearts Edward and Sophie, separated by their social standing meet again after many years. Edward is now working as Eisenhiem the Illusionist and Sophie is due to marry the Crown Prince. The couple want to be together but fear the Crown Prince will never let this happen.
Edward Norton who you may remember from Fight Club takes on the lead role as Eisenhiem and he plays the part really well. It is a million miles away from the role he played in Fight Club and really shows his versatility. He creates an air of mystery and intrigue that fit the film perfectly and copes well with the time setting and accent. He really becomes the character and it is a great performance from him throughout. The leading lady is played by Jessica Biel, who you may have seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think she is perfect for her role as not only does she have a natural beauty which fits so well within this story but she really envelops the character and the time setting and helps the story feel more realistic. The rest of the cast all do fine jobs and no one really lets the side down. The only person I felt was slightly out of place was Jake Woods, who plays Max in Eastenders, although he did a fine job (my boyfriend thinks his accent was a little dodgy but I didn't notice) I couldn't get out of my head that he was Max, which did detract from the film a little bit, but not enough to be a problem. He was in this before Eastenders though so it is not something that would have been thought about at the time.
A few months ago I came across a film called The Prestige on the movie channels and noticed it was by the same people who brought us Memento. Being that it was by the same people I wanted to watch it, although if it hadn't been I may never have been that interested in it. I wasn't disappointed and really loved The Prestige (although it was one of those that grew on me the more I thought about it, rather than an instant love). On the internet I then saw a film that everyone was comparing to The Prestige; The Illusionist. The over riding opinion was that The Illusionist was similar to The Prestige, but better. This is how I came to watch The Illusionist, a film which under normal circumstances I perhaps wouldn't have been initially interested in.
I will start off by letting those of you out there that have seen one or the other of these two mentioned films know that the only similarity between them is the fact the main character is an illusionist or magician and perhaps also the time setting. The two plots, and the feel and mood of both films couldn't be more different. I am going to set my standing on the matter now and say that I by far preferred The Prestige although my boyfriend preferred the Illusionist. For me this was because I felt the story of The Prestige was much deeper, more exciting and left me thinking about it after it. For my boyfriend, he preferred the Illusionist because it was "simpler" and please don't always confuse this as being a bad thing, or lazy, sometimes a film being simpler is a good thing. The Illusionist was a great film.
The film did have me interested in the story, although not completely enthralled like some of the best films do. The plot and the story was constantly moving but not too fast. It never really dragged but it didn't speed along either. It was a nice relaxed pace, enough to take everything in.
I felt the time was captured well with a combined effort of costumes, the great acting and accents, along side the setting and scenery. At no point did it feel overly forced or fake, it was all very naturally and worked well, quietly aiding the story, rather than trying to overshadow it.
The story itself was a good story, although like my boyfriend said quite simple. Don't get me wrong it wasn't like say you're typical Hollywood love story where you can pretty much predict how the film will end from the opening scene, but it won't have you puzzling along and having to think too hard either. Whether this is a good thing or not is generally down to the person, or sometimes just the mood you're in. I quite like to puzzle along, as long as there is a sensible mystery there to work out (I don't like films that plain old don't make sense or are have a stupid conclusion) but I know many people prefer to be able to just relax and take in the story - movies are for entertainment and it's generally down to you which you prefer.
This has quite a good balance of not being the same old bland story that's been written and re written time and time again, but not being too complex to confuse people or put anyone off watching it. It's quite a good balance for the majority of people I think.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film throughout, I was never once bored and I was left feeling satisfied at the end. All in all it ticks most of the boxes in what you want from a film, although there's that something missing for me at least, to make it an all time favourite.
I think it has quite a wide appeal as it has the love story element for us girls, but isn't too mushy and although the basis of the story is around the two people wanting to be together, it isn't necessarily the focus of the whole film. It's would also appeal to quite broad an age range I think because it doesn't have anything in to offend anyone and is interesting enough to have most people happy to watch it.
This is one that I wouldn't be opposed to watching again sometime, although I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to re watch it.
In the mid nineteenth century two Sisters by the name Fox wowed the country with their seemingly paranormal abilities, be it making ectoplasm appear from thin air or moving objects around the room, those who attended the séances and theatre gatherings amazed by what they saw. The eventual fraud aside, what caused the original uproar was the fact their actions undermined the natural order of things because the sisters seem to have evidence that the afterlife was real, and so not only undermining the Christian Church and the government of the day's authority, but creating public fears over heretics and threatening dark forces. In those days for the majority lowly educated populous to see this type of apparition would be similar to UFO beliefs today.
'The Illusionist' explores that same interesting dynamic between the state-here the Austro-Hungarian monarchy-and the god-fearing people of that time , interweaving a gentle love story to draw in a female audience and perspective, and in the process creating a rather clever little movie on that paranormal mysticism of the day that could have easily been duff movie territory here. But along with a very solid script and the reassuring presence of the boyish Edward Norton and the always watchable Paul Giamatti, giving it that red wax seal of class, this really works and entertains on many levels.
Anyone who has seen the Prestige on similar themes and enjoyed that will probably not have seen this yet because they think the two would be very alike-but it's not the case. This is the more intriguing movie of the two and I think you will like this just as much as the Prestige. In fact both are surprisingly good and excellent family movies, just right for the weekend as the storms head in. The one negative would be the use of C.G.I here to recreate the illusions, and as the tricks are based on original illusions from 2000 years ago it would have been nice to see the more manual special-effect approach to give the film just that extra tough of authenticity. Once you get used to that concession to technology-this is the movies after all-you will be sucked in.
Edward Norton ... Eisenheim
Paul Giamatti ... Inspector Uhl
Jessica Biel ... Sophie
Rufus Sewell ... Crown Prince Leopold
Eddie Marsan ... Josef Fischer (as Edward Marsan)
Jake Wood ... Jurka
Tom Fisher ... Willigut
Aaron Johnson ... Young Eisenheim
Eleanor Tomlinson ... Young Sophie
Karl Johnson ... Doctor / Old Man
Vincent Franklin ... Loschek
It's the late 19th century as young Eisenheim (Aaron Johnson), who loves magic tricks, is enchanted by a beautiful girl, Sophie (Eleanor Tomlinson), atop a fine stallion, she drawn to his egg balancing skills in the noisy market place, a gentle smile showing her affection. Soon they are stealing away with each other when ever they can, their friendship blossoming into something more, but forbidden to see each other ever again when they are caught alone at night in a stable by the glare of a flaming torch and an angry search party, he not worthy of her social standing...
15 long years on and Eisenheim (Ed Norton) is all grown up and now a traveling illusionist, perfecting his craft by wandering Europe and the Far East to learn great tricks and knowledge from the great mystics and conjurers of the world, here turning up in 1900s Vienna to perform his stage show. After hiring a local theater he wows the crowds with magical orange trees that grow in front of their eyes, accompanied by spirits that seem to swirl above the stage, then disappear into the same thin air they came from. So impressed is Austrian high society that royalty attends, Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) no less, the King of Austro-Hungary in waiting, enjoying the evening to see the great mystic for himself. When offering his bride to be (Jessica Biel) to be Eisenhiems assistant for a trick up on stage to please his subjects, when Eisenheim takes her hand and their eyes meets he immediately recognizes the girl as Sophie, but doesn't acknowledge it.
Leopold is intelligent and a true cynic of this trickery, asking to meet the illusionist's backstage to investigate the mystery and try and out smart him. So impressed is he with Eisenheims guile and apparent supernatural power, a command royal performance is demanded for the palace to prove the Prince is the only wise, all-seeing man in town. Eisenham is more than willing to accept and take up the challenge, anything to get close to Sophie, the love of his life, who is to soon wed the wretched wife beating Leopold in an arranged marriage to suit each others parent expected social standing etc. And it is here that they confirm each others identity, the two stealing stolen moments in Vienna once again.
With their secret love is reborn the king is suspicious of everything Eisenhiem, so appoints local police chief Uhl (Paul Giamatti), to keep an eye on him. The unrest amongst the Princes subjects of these apparent ungodly like feats is making his highness unsettled and if he doesn't marry Sophie soon then he cant be Emperor and get to put down this restlessness in his kingdom, Eisenheim increasingly using his stage show to undermine the king and his authority in front of his subjects...
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I'm a big fan of Ed Norton and ever since his startling appearance as the skinhead racist in the superb American History X; I always look out for his movies. He was nearly as good in Fight Club, alongside muscle head Brad Pitt, and seems to be building an impressive range in that intense understated way he has on screen, not bad considering he is of boyish and shy everyman appearance. He is not a sexy leading man in any way. He was also magnetic in Rounders with Matt Damon and pretty good in this movie I saw recently where he plays a psycho cowboy in the big city. With his gauche screen presence and average good looks its amazing how he carried off that lead role in History X.
It was good to see him play the lead in a film like this as he had started to wander off on easy street doing cheesy comedies of late. He's better than that and one of the few actors around who provides genuine depth to his performances, able to express pathos as well as being a smart and improvisational on screen awareness wise. If he gets the right script the kid has an Oscar in him. He was very close with Primal Fear.
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Imdb.com scores it 7.7 out of 10.0 (53,382)
You have to bear with the illusionist. Like all good tricks, it's a clever work of suggestion and misdirection and its pay-off arrives at curtain call. Adapted from a short story by a Pulitzer Prize winner, the film is an understated, meticulously crafted gemstone. Watching it is kind of like brushing away the dust on a rock to reveal the hidden diamond.
This is one of those movies that you look at the front cover and think what's this all about then? Why would I want to rent it? But then you do some quick research and realize it doesn't get a bum review anywhere and so rent it to see what it is about. I'm always wary of period movies with top hats and horse and carriages but after twenty minutes of this you are soon intrigued. When this type of movie gets over seven on the Imdb then you know there's a clever twist here somewhere as it cant just be about a magician trying to win his bird back against impossible odds, and although you should really see the twist coming mid-movie, you don't, and the near two hours is very satisfying.
It's near two how run time does mean Theresa bit of messing around and scene setting but once the mystery and intrigue begins the thoughts of the kettle fade away and you are ready to be enthralled.
= = = SPECIAL FEATURES = = =
Audio Commentary by director Neil Burger
The Making of 'The Illusionist'
Its one of those awful ones where the stars explain what you have just seen. Norton looks a little chubby in the face; Paul Giamatti looks exasperated by having to do this stuff.
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RuN-TiMe 110 Minutes
3 for £7 deal at Blockbusters.
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I was tricked into watching The Illusionist, if you pardon the pun. A friend had recently acquired it on DVD and I had been subjected to his enthusiastic raves regarding how good this film was. As someone who is not particularly up to speed on films I hadn't actually heard anything about this film before, but I agreed to borrow it and last night I finally got the chance to sit down and watch it.
The film is set in Vienna during the 19th century and tells the story of an illusionist that goes by the name of Eisenheim. During the opening scene of the film we see Eisenheim on a theatre stage, in an almost trance like state. Suddenly there is chaos and dozens of policemen storm the stage, uttering the words; "Eisenheim, we are arresting you for outraging public decency". This opening scene is actually a snippet from the latter part of the film as from here the story flashes back to Eisenheims's childhood. These opening shots were however enough to intrigue me and puzzled me enough to want to watch the film and find out just exactly what was going on.
The retrospective parts of the story are narrated and some of these scenes are shot in a kind of off colour with sepia type tones. This gives these scenes an added charm and enhances them with a feeling of authenticity. These flashbacks show us the young Eisenheim, encountering a travelling magician and then developing a fascination for magic and illusions. It is also during this time that he meets a young Duchess called Sophie, who is a part of the Austrian Royal family. They become childhood sweethearts but because he is a commoner their friendship is forbidden so they are forced to meet in secret. Eventually their secret is discovered and Eisenheim is sent away.
We are told that Eisenheim spent many years travelling the world before the film then jumps back to the present, where he has returned to Vienna and carved out quite a lucrative career for himself, performing to packed out theatre audiences night after night. The tricks that captivate his audiences often involve quite elaborate illusions and these are never explained to the viewer. Whether these are acts of magic or if, as some of his followers' claim, he has supernatural powers, this is never made clear either, but word of his skills travels quickly and members of the Austrian Royal family regularly begin to attend his shows. This leads to a chance meeting with his childhood sweetheart, Sophie, once again, but Eisenhower soon discovers that she is about to marry the corrupt Crown Prince Leopold.
Neil Burger, who also wrote the screenplay for this film directs the Illusionist. I am not familiar with any of Burger's previous work but he certainly manages to capture the period that this film is set in. The leading male characters: Einsenheim, Prince Leopold and Inspector Uhl of the police force, who Prince Leopold assigns to keep a watchful eye on Eisenheim, all have a Victorian sort of charm about them, and they also have the customary attire of the day: black suits and moustaches. Whilst the women, including Duchess Sophie are all dressed as you would expect upper class women of that period to be dressed. The mode of transport for this period is horse drawn carriage so the period certainly precedes the invention of the motor car.
As the film develops we see Eisenheim being shadowed by Inspector Uhl and his men, determined to find something on Eisenheim that they can report back to the Prince, but Eisenhower always seems to be one step ahead of them. However, as they draw nearer to thwarting his plans to be with the Duchess tragedy suddenly strikes and Eisenheim is forced to make preparations to carry out his greatest illusion of all.
Edward Norton portrays the lead role of Eisenheim very well, but my main criticism is that he has an annoying accent. This same criticism can be applied equally to the rest of the cast, including Duchess Sophie, played by Jessica Biel, who each attempt to convey a totally unnecessary Anglicised Austrian accent. On the whole however the acting is well done and I found this to be an interesting film, but by no means a brilliant film.
The opening scenes promised a lot but from here the pace was somewhat slow and there were a few moments that were so drawn out that I began to lose interest. The story does however have plenty of twists and turns and enough goodies and baddies to just about keep you watching and the final twist was something that I didn't see coming.
Paul Giamatti plays the slightly corrupt Inspector Uhl, who has been promised a more prominent role when the Prince becomes Emperor. His loyalties are however somewhat divided and it is Giamatti's skill as an actor that enables us to see that he is not entirely happy working for the Prince. Most people will probably remember Giamatti from Cinderella Man, but I also remember him from Man on the Moon.
The Crown Prince Leopold is played by Rufus Sewell. As the baddie of the film the task here was always to be unlikeable, and this is something that Sewell manages to achieve with ease.
Overall I would recommend to this film to others but mainly for the wonderful settings. The majority of the scenes were shot in the Czech Republic, but I for one could believe that it was Vienna.
As with all DVD's there are several extras, which I did take a peek at. These include a short film about the filming of The Illusionist and a Director's commentary. Both of these are very short and neither is particularly memorable. There is also a 90 second interview with Jessica Beil, which again seemed rather pointless.
DVD Released - January 2007
Running time - 1 hour 50 minutes
Certification - PG (for mild sex and violence)
The Illusionist offers welcome proof that "arthouse" quality needn't be limited to the arthouses. Set in turn-of-the-century Vienna, this stately, elegant period film benefited from a crossover release in mainstream cinemas, and showed considerable box-office staying power--granted, teenage mallrats and lusty males may have been drawn to the allure of Seventh Heaven alumna Jessica Biel, who rises to the occasion with a fine performance. But there's equal appeal in the casting of Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, who bring their formidable talents to bear on the intriguing tale of a celebrated magician named Eisenheim (Norton) whose stage performance offends the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), a vindictive lout who aims to marry Duchess Sophie (Biel), Eisenheim's childhood friend and now, 15 years later, his would-be lover. This romantic rivalry and Eisenheim's increasingly enigmatic craft of illusion are investigated by Chief Inspector Uhl (Giamatti), who's under Leopold's command and is therefore not to be trusted as Eisenheim and Sophie draw closer to their inevitable reunion. Cleverly adapted by director Neil Burger from Steven Millhauser's short story "Eisenheim the Illusionist," and boasting exquisite production values and a fine score by Philip Glass, The Illusionist is the kind of class act that fully deserved its unusually wide and appreciative audience. --Jeff Shannon