THE ILLUSIONIST (2006)
Starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell. Directed by Neil Burger. (109 min).
ON BLU-RAY FROM
MVD MARQUEE COLLECTION
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😸
A pair of major magician-themed films were released in 2006. Of the two, The Prestige garnered the most attention with some considerable star power. It was more of a thriller and remains pretty highly regarded (likely due to director Christopher Nolan’s growing reputation). While nearly as successful, The Illusionist seems to have been comparatively forgotten over the years.
Too bad, really, because The Illusionist is a compelling film in its own right. Edward Norton is Eisenheim, whose show wows the masses. During one performance, he reunites with Sophie (Jessica Biel), whom he loved as a teenager. However, they were forbidden to see each other because he was the son of a peasant. She’s now engaged to abusive Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), but makes the decision to call-off the marriage in order to be with Eisenheim.
Sophie is murdered before they can escape, leaving the viewer little doubt who the killer is. Eisenheim is very vocal about it, yet Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), who also happens to serve directly under the prince, refuses to investigate the murder any further. Leopold puts together a new show in which he appears to conjure spirits of the dead, including Sophie herself.
|Edward picks out grapefruit.|
As a mystery, The Illusionist doesn’t try that hard to keep the audience guessing. The way Sophie’s murder is presented, the “surprise” ending probably won’t be much of a revelation, either, and might have the viewer wondering how it would be logistically possible (given the time the story takes place). Fortunately, how the story unfolds is entertaining enough that we don’t bother with such trifles until after it’s over. The film also benefits greatly from great production design and performances. Norton is his usual intense self, while Giamatti is terrific as the increasingly-uncertain inspector and Sewell makes a suitably nasty villain.
Though not as complex, flashy and star-driven as The Prestige, The Illusionist is nevertheless an intriguing film worth revisiting. Despite being conceptually similar, the film has its own story to tell and does it commendably. It’s been released on Blu-ray before, but this version – part of MVD’s Marquee Collection – also includes bonus features carried over from the original DVD.
FEATURETTES - “The Making of The Illusionist”; “Jessica Biel on The Illusionist”.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Writer/Director Neil Burger.
PURR-R-R. LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.