Buy This Film
2006
Rated: PG for violence, adult themes, and mild language.
Genre: Fantasy Drama Crime Thriller
Directed By: Neil Burger
Running Time: 1:48
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 1/07/07
Special Features:
Making of The Illusionist Featurette
Jessica Biel on The Illusionist
Theatrical Trailer

THE ILLUSIONIST

 

Neil Burgerís ďThe IllusionistĒ watches like something youíd read in a Sherlock Holmes novel. Much of its sensibility is kept in a period that feels almost as if Holmes and his assistant Watson will enter the scene in any instance to help solve the case of the magician and the ghostly Duchess. Thatís probably why I loved ďThe IllusionistĒ so much. Itís gorgeous, yet simple. Itís quiet yet really manages to keep the audience in constant awe. Itís a prize package, something I usually expect from the likes of Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Rufus Sewell respectively. Norton is an actor I admire consistently, because when he wants to, he can belt out a wonderful performance for the screen. This man prospers in the face of awful movies, and flourishes in the face of wonderful dramas like ďThe Illusionist.Ē

Part mystery, part fantasy, and part romance, ďThe IllusionistĒ explores the career of famous illusionist Eisenheim, a renowned artist who creates amazing illusions for audiences around the world. Chief Inspector Uhl, an aspiring magician, finds the man mesmerizing. And the audience will, too. Thanks to Norton, who gives Eisenheim an air of charm and pure mystery that keeps him a character you canít turn away from. Heís an enigma, and Uhl is equally fascinated with his mysterious origins.  

When an old love comes back into Eisenheimís life, he is intent on winning her back from the evil Prince Leopold, and does so by defying his authority and constantly belittling him. But when the duchess appears murdered, Uhl attempts to discover who did it and why. Was it Eisenheim, who couldnít face that winning her would mean dire consequences, or was it someone altogether? Burgerís fantasy becomes a murder mystery and one that sports plot twists, and a surprise ending, and itís an invariable magic trick that you think youíll have pegged, yet youíll find youíll always be in awe.

Burgerís marvelous crime drama aspires to constantly keep us in suspense, and does so with old fashioned film devices, and keeps the genuine turn of the century atmosphere a constant. Burgerís film is a verbose and utterly elaborate mystery that unfolds gradually and delves deeper into these characters psyches to bring us in tighter on the murder and leave us to ponder on the crime and draw our own conclusions. Is Uhl trying to uncover the crime, or what looks like a vast charade? If so, how can one man conduct such a large charade? Why the ploy? Who murdered the duchess? Is Uhl intent on cracking the case for justice, or for the same morbid curiosity that draws him to magic and Eisenheim?

How can he break this case without betraying his duties and ruining his career? Burgerís screenplay keeps audiences guessing again and again, and itís complimented by wonderful performances from the cast. Paul Giamatti is quaint as this unlikely hero who seeks only to perform his duties, yet canít help sympathize with Eisenheim, while Norton is, as usual, nothing short of stellar. ďThe IllusionistĒ is a wonderful hat trick, one filled with surprises, and wonderful performances, and itís one thatís hard to top.

Burger's "The Illusionist" is an immaculate and utterly gorgeous murder mystery with the trifecta of wonderful direction, great acting, and a plot that twists and turns at every such occasion.

  • Edward Norton did many of his own magic tricks, with the coaching of James Freedman. He worked with Edward Norton preparing him for his stage performances and acted as a hand double in numerous situations.

 

 

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