Reccos: The Illusionist

Director: Neil Burger
Cast: Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti

The Illusionist is the screen adaptation of Steven Millhauser’s short story “Eisenheim the Illusionist”. Eisenheim (Edward Norton), returns to Vienna as a master Illusionist after having traveled the world for fifteen years. He meets Sophie (Jessica Biel), his childhood sweetheart who is now the fiancée of the villainous Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) and they start having an affair. On finding this, Leopald murders Sophie and Eisenheim in grief starts summoning spirits in his magic shows to find out the murderer. Can he really summon those spirits or is everything an illusion is what the rest of the movie is about.

The scene where Eisenheim performs a private show for the prince and the cat and mouse games between Eisenheim and the Chief Inspector are really good. The visual effects in the movie are aesthetic and stand out in scenes like the one where Eisenheim pulls his gloves off and throws them away only to have them turn into black birds and fly away or the one where Eisenheim makes an orange tree sprout from a seed and bear fruit or the one where he materializes ghosts.

Edward Norton is brilliant as Eisenheim and his performance keeps the audience guessing whether he really has those magical powers or is just a charlatan. Jessica Biel looks gorgeous and gives a decent performance as Duchess Sophie von Teschen. Paul Giamatti is good as the Chief Inspector Uhl. Rufus Sewell gives a brilliant performance as the Crown Prince Leopold prone to outbursts of temper.

Cinematography by Dick Pope is excellent and the movie received an Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Cinematography. Art Direction and the costumes complement the setting. Music by Philip Glass is very good and adds to the movie’s mystery and magic. Neil Burger’s direction is excellent and he continuously keeps the audience entertained and interested in the proceedings.

The Illusionist is a good period drama though the ending is a bit simplistic with a montage showing the incidents. The movie deliberately leaves one dazzled and wondering just like a good magic show.

Rating: 4 / 5 (Brilliant)

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