Movie Review: The Illusionist

Our friends Rosy & Caroline came up on Friday night to hang out and stay over, and we ended up going to see The Illusionist yesterday afternoon. It stars Ed Norton (yum…even with 80′s David Copperfield hair) and Paul Giamatti, who both turned in terrific performances. (Giamatti could act his way out of a paper bag, using only his eyebrows.) Even little Jessica Biel — of 7th Heaven fame (and Stealth infamy) — rose to the occasion, and Rufus Sewell is about as good an evil prince as you can find. (I think it may actually be impossible for him to play a good guy. His hooded eyes bespeak your doom.)

Norton plays Eisenheim the Illusionist, newly arrived in turn-of-the-century, Enlightenment-gripped Vienna to wow wonder-starved audiences with his prestidigitation. Giamatti is Inspector Uhl, an ambitious yet likeable policeman who reports directly to Prince Leopold (Sewell), and is caught up in the Prince’s political schemes. Eisenheim and Leopold love the same woman (Biel), which is a problem.

The charm of this film is that it takes its time. There is silence much of the time (though the score by Philip Glass is absolutely lovely), and when people speak, they often talk quietly, measuring out exactly what it is they want to say. The movie’s a bit slow, to be quite honest, but it works in the story’s favor. There’s no “TA-DAAAH!” lurking around every corner, because the reveal isn’t the point. Even the CG used for the “magic” isn’t stellar, but again…not the point.

The point is the move-countermove dance of the characters, navigating a world where science has trumped mystery, but not quite stamped out the desire to believe in the mysterious. The film doesn’t knock you back in your seat, but instead seduces you, inviting you to be part of Eisenheim’s audience, wondering if your eyes deceive you (and kinda hoping they do).

6 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Illusionist

  1. Chad

    That’s all well and good and stuff…. but have you seen Barnyard : The Original Party Animals? I laughed, I cried. I lie.

  2. Morphea

    Oh, man. Ramon and I went to see this. Edward Norton made me all gooshy inside before he got hawt in American History X. And I thought (not that I’m Viennese or anything) their accents were delicious. When Eisenheim’s doing that Bowie-in-Labyrinth thing with the orange I, uh, never mind. Let’s keep things family-friendly. It was very sexy. With the accent. Yikes.

    It’s kind of a dreamily lugubrious movie, isn’t it? And so very beautiful. I loved it.


  3. Karen

    How funny that this one came back up now. Bobby and I saw this last weekend in St Louis. When he bought the tickets and we went around the corner he went “oh crap, I bought tickets to the wrong movie.” He thought he was buying tickets to The Prestige. We went in anyway and were pleaseantly surprised. The movie draws you in and makes you not want to leave.

    We loved it! It was a much needed change from The Black Dahlia which was not our happy place.

  4. Morphea

    The Prestige isn’t even out yet, is it? But rather eerily close in subject matter. And both have super, SUPER-hot male and female leads.

    I can’t wait to see The Prestige. And I’m so glad you liked The Illusionist. So, er, did The Black Dahlia just suck or was it dark and twisty and disturbing? Or both?


  5. Karen

    Dark and twisty and a little disturbing. It was kind of an intriguing story but the acting was a little flat. It was kind of an old school gum-shoe sleuthing film which I like but lots of “stuff” thrown in that didn’t necessarily need to be there.

  6. CB3

    I like it :D

    But he (RS) plays good in Tristan & Isolde and I love it. He plays Lord Mark. xD

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