The Illusionist Reviews
Ed Norton's awesome. Seriously. Go watch Fight Club, or American History X to see what I'm talking about. He puts in another good performance here.
When watching this movie I couldn't help but compare it to the Prestige. It's a lot less stylish than its magical rival, and a lot less believable; not just in the tricks on show but in the motivations of some characters.
In The Prestige, there is genuine desperation on show; both magicians are devoting their lives to discovering how each others' tricks are achieved. In this, Paul Giamatti's investigator is the one assigned to uncover Eisenheim's secrets, but you can't tell he reeally wants to know, and the fact that the magic tricks are more preposterous than those seen in The Prestige, makes you wonder if it's even worth investigating.
The aim of the illusion is to make us believe something that shouldn't necessarily be believed. This film is an illusion in itself, crafting a mystery that we're not entirely aware is there in the first place. We get swerved, big style. It's not a shocking swerve by any means, but is a testament to the film and its themes.
The film is by no means a complete success but for the majority of it, say two thirds, it is a compelling tale. Eisenheim discovers that great power comes with a target on your back. The Prince discovers that with great power comes the vulnerability of theft. What follows is a battle for Jessica Biel, and we see how each man exercises their power, and who one ups the other. Frankly, if it's a battle for Jessica Biel, I'll quite gladly join in. I don't have a power, but I can probably muster up a DDT or two...
HERE BEGINNETH THE SPOILER:
There is one thing I didn't quite understand though...to anyone who has seen it:
Biel's character isn't actually dead, but Eisenheim lets everyone believe she was murdered, forcing the Prince (the accused) to shoot himself. Bit too far? Did Norton's character really need to let it lead to a suicide? This part kinda confuses me but if it is how I see it, then Eisenheim and his motivations suddenly seem a lot more sadistic.
The Illusionist is a mystery drama movie set in Vienna at the end of the 19th century, with magic on show and a royal who doesn't like it much. The movie is an interesting one, the plot is very intriguing and really makes you think quite a bit about what will happen next. I think the movie also stays with you afterwards as you fully realise what has happened in the movie, a kind of nice after taste if you will.
It has a smart plot and feels even smarter as the credits roll, there is no doubt this will please many many fans but I did feel this movie thinks it is much smarter than it is. Now it is not that the film has been done before necessarily, it is just that the plot when thought about is good but in truth you can see the producers really wanted people to leave and think "Wow that was amazing" and try to win you over on only one element of the story.
The movie is well acted all round and the cast are picked well, Edward Norton is fine as our main character Eisenheim and he manages to confidentially play out a difficult role. Paul Giamatti as Chief Inspector Uhl is good as well, the way in which his character has two faces in a way really makes this a defining role for Giamatti in cinema. Jessica Biel is fine as the Duchess and although she isn't great, her role is very important in the end, with Rufus Sewell's portrayal of the Crown Prince Leopold also a very fine and important role all together too.
Neil Burger writes and directs the movie and he does both well mixing together elements which haven't been done before and bringing in the tried and tested to create an all round good film. Above all he directs well here and it is one of the best things about this, Burger manages to bring not only the most out of the characters but also true emotion and it can't be said that you don't feel for the characters if not a little by the end in anyway.
Now don't get me wrong the movie can have it's dull moments although it isn't bad I don't mean, I am just saying that the scenes can around the middle to middle ending feel too dull and as if everything happening is completely predicted. The real pay off as I have said is of course the end and I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen this, but let's just say that you have to wait until the end to really get the full force of this movie.
The film is even well researched, it goes well with a true story in history about the Crown Prince and the duchess and takes a new if not absurd spin on the story, well for some maybe it is absurd. I liked the setting of the movie, Vienna provides a beautiful backdrop and one of the defining things about this is the architecture, it may make you want to go on holiday there after viewing I have no doubt.
Overall it is a good piece of cinema and one that will be remembered, As I said it thinks it is smarter than it really is so some may watch this and really love it like a lot. It is though a smart plot in fairness and a smart movie all round, the cleverness of the team in directing and writing and also the acting makes this a fine movie and one that may have some calling for why certain actors didn't get award nominations.