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The Illusionist (2006) WS R1 Retail DVD
Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller
Beautifully realized with some of the most luscious cinematography recently seen in a period piece, The Illusionist is all about the grand illusion and whether what you're actually seeing on screen is actually what you're getting. Well, the final twist in this movie does come is indeed a bit of a surprise, it's just a pity that the journey to get there is so flat and lacking in tension.
Whilst the Illusionist has plenty of drama, unfortunately the plodding direction and the leaden storyline end up weighing this film down, so consequently the only things that are really intriguing is the productionmore… design, which wonderfully recreates early 20th century Vienna, and Paul Giamatti's sly performance as police inspector Uhl who investigates the titular illusionist and masterful magician Eisenheim (Edward Norton).
For most of his life the enigmatic Eisenheim has been harboring feelings for the beautiful Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), But she's about to marry Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). The crown prince is intrigued over Eisenheim's capacities and the fact that he can make orange trees grow and conjure up the spirits of the dead. Not to be outwitted, he becomes embarrassed when Eisenheim embarrassed him in front of his bride to be.
When Leopold fails to unlock the mystery behind Eisenheim's illusions in front of his assembled guests, he charges Chief Inspector Uhl with the task of digging up something on the dubious unknown. The stage is set for a battle of competitive wits between Eisenheim and Leopold as they both vie for the affections of Sophie.
At its heart, The Illusionist is basically a love story so it's unfortunate that there's so little chemistry between Norton and Biel. Norton is a great actor, but here he comes across as rather deadpan and boring and he's not very convincing as a romantic lead. He seems miscast - perhaps a British actor such as Jeremy Northam or Rupert Everett would have been better in the role.
Whilst Writer-director Neil Burger does a good job of displaying Eisenheim's sleight-of-hand - the theatrical scenes are rightfully ghostly and atmospheric; but the effects are mostly silly and preposterous, and also often heavy-handed, and the whole film has moments when it stalls.
Giamatti and Sewell really terrific and they end up stealing the show right from under Norton. Also, if Sophie and really want is just to be together, that makes the film's final hour relatively pointless since it's all about punishing another character whose supposedly evil plans to take over the Empire are not really expounded on as well as they could have been.
Apparently, Burger adapted the movie from a short story and his script certainly feels padded, as if he was working overtime to extend a half-hour narrative to feature length. The end result is a missed opportunity; The Illusionist is a visually sumptuous film, but it's ultimately mired by a lack of tension and by heavy-handed direction that makes it boring when it should by exiting. Mike Leonard January 07.
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- The Illusionist (2006) WS R1 Retail DVD
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- 11/03/07 by roccosdad
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Rated 4.5 of 5 (2 votes). Click CDs to vote!