BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE ILLUSIONIST

By • Jan 9th, 2007 •

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Movies are like buses. You wait for ages and then two come along at once. Take, for example, DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON (cobbled together these two would have made a decent movie, which separately, neither of them did), or ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES and Bergin’s ROBIN HOOD. Strangely, or perhaps magically, it’s the same with movies about late 19th century magicians. In September/October 2006, within ten days of each other, we had THE ILLUSIONIST and THE PRESTIGE (see Victoria’s review), both tales of rivalry, revenge and the quest to discover the secrets behind the magic.

Childhood sweethearts Eisenheim and Sophie, peasant’s son and aristocrat respectively, are forbidden to meet because of the class difference between them. Eisenhiem travels the world and returns to Vienna a world-renowned stage magician. Sophie by this time is betrothed to Crown Prince Leopold. Leopold is fascinated by Eisenheim’s ‘tricks’ and orders a private performance so that he might demonstrate his cleverness to his peers by exposing Eisenheim. The magician however turns the tables during this ‘demonstration’, and, having been made a fool of in front of his colleagues, and especially Sophie, Leopold enlists Inspector Uhl to discover the secrets behind Eisenheim’s magic and/or shut him down. Tragedy eventually and inevitably strikes and Eisenheim turns his skills toward the thwarting of Leopold’s political plans and his complete downfall.

The film is beautifully shot and the period is captured superbly. There were a few slow passages but the ensemble cast work well together, particularly Sewell and Giamatti. Norton does have moments of looking spaced out rather than enigmatic, but the ending was totally satisfying and, to me at any rate, completely unanticipated, which makes a pleasant change.

A superior film in my view to THE PRESTIGE, which veered into Mary Shelley/science fiction territory, whereas the magic in THE ILLUSIONIST is simply that – illusion. Like the movies themselves, all smoke and mirrors.

Recommended.

BRYAN’S ILLUSIONIST REVIEW

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