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The Illusionist (2006)
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Review Date: January 01, 2007
Director: Neil Burger
Writer: Neil Burger
Producers: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Michael London, Bob Yari
Actors:
Edward Norton as Eisenheim
Paul Giamatti as Chief Uhl
Jessica Biel as Sophie
Plot:
It’s the early 1900s and we are in Vienna, Austria, following the adventures of one Eisenheim, the illusionist, as he dazzles the everyday folk and the royals with his trickery on stage. That is, until he decides to challenge the Prince with his puzzles, and ends up be smitten by his lover. What follows are more tricks, deceptions and plenty of slight of hand, as the illusionist is backed into a corner and we’re all left wondering what is real and what is not.
Critique:
A gorgeous-looking movie featuring a fascinating lead character who likes to pull the wool over people’s eyes by amazing them with feats of magic, disappearance, guesswork and yes, you guessed it…illusions. I guess you could call this guy the David Copperfield or David Blaine of his day, only unlike Blane, he actually performs magic and doesn’t just cage himself in ice for a few days and call it magic. The actor portraying the man of which I speak is Edward Norton, back in top form on the big screen, after seemingly disappearing from the face of the planet himself over the past few years. But he’s back with a vengeance here, and a monster goatee to boot (I wanted to build a hut and a life with my wife and kids in his beard). Paul Giamatti also plays his conflicted character to a tee, finally discarding his knack for playing lovable schlubs and showing the world why he’s been certified as one of our best character actors. In third spot comes Jessica Biel, who despite my own personal reservations, actually held her own against the two more established thespians, and did so without any gratuitous boob or ass shots (although she definitely allowed her lips to do the acting in a couple of sequences). But the film wasn’t entertaining all the way through simply because of its characters alone, it also featured a highly authentic and moody look and feel, which along with some darkened corners on the film reel itself, provided the movie with just the right amount of mystery required.

I love movies like this because they keep me guessing, and nowadays in Hollywood, the only thing left to answer is how many sequels a successful generic film will require in order for the studio to stop their uninspired movie-making trend (there’s no correct answer to this query as of yet). Thankfully, writer/director Neil Burger has other plans as he has created here, a wonderful cinematic experience filled with lush visuals, eye-catching costumes, authentic locales, a believable and romantic love-story, as well as plenty of magic and suspense for anyone who appreciates that sort of thing. I did guess what the film’s final “illusion” would be about halfway through the movie (it’s not so difficult to figure out), but the movie still held me within its grasp, if only because I was consistently wondering from where the next twist would come. Oh yeah, and I almost forgot about the always-entertaining Rufus Sewell, who sneered his way through yet another palpable nasty-man role. The film did surprise me with a couple of small turns in the end, and I most certainly appreciated its final “reveal”, if only because it helped clear it all up in my mind, and left me with a happy feeling in my heart (mind you, some people would rather elements be left ambiguous, but I think that for a film based on magic and illusion, it’s important to give, at least, some stuff away, otherwise the audience might not fully appreciate the film’s true spirit). I dug it all, and even though I liked its first hour a little more than its second half, the film on the whole was a wonderful achievement in many respects and should be viewed by anyone searching for an old school whodunit sprinkled with love, magic and the massive Norton goatee!
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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7:50AM on 05/10/2007
This is a great film and I know heaps of people are comparing it to The Prestige since they both came out around the same time but in my opinion, you can't compare the two films.

Just because they share the similar foundation of exploring the world of magicians in the 1800/1900s, doesn't mean that their storylines would be similar. Heck! To me they didn't even parallel.

The Illusionist is somewhat more of a soft love story with little intruiging bits here and there. The surprises are
This is a great film and I know heaps of people are comparing it to The Prestige since they both came out around the same time but in my opinion, you can't compare the two films.

Just because they share the similar foundation of exploring the world of magicians in the 1800/1900s, doesn't mean that their storylines would be similar. Heck! To me they didn't even parallel.

The Illusionist is somewhat more of a soft love story with little intruiging bits here and there. The surprises are always pleasant but never dull. Besides, when you have Edward Norton on board, you're bound to have an interesting film. Paul Giamatti is no different, the guy is a chameleon! He can play any role, from serious to just slapstick funny (Big Fat Liar anyone?). Jessica Biel's a little tricky because I don't think she's ever had to be in a movie where she's had to showcase so much of her acting chops but she handles herself nicely albeit a bit stiffly. Somehow she just doesn't seem natural compared to Norton, Giamatti or Rufus Sewell, who probably made a name out of himself for playing hateful baddies.

All in all this film is magically beautiful (pun intended) and I would love to see more period flicks like this one.
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1:12AM on 01/16/2007

Big Surprise Fo' ME!

I have seen so many movies that I can pretty much always guess where they are going. I really didn't see where this one was going, which was just great for me. Yeah it was a little slow, but not too bad. I sure do like to see Rufus Sewell in a pretty decent role, but He really deserves some lead roles like he had in the highly under-rated "DARK CITY." (Well Joblo rates it well.) I would recommend this to just about everyone, particularly to fans of mysterys. The love story is a little
I have seen so many movies that I can pretty much always guess where they are going. I really didn't see where this one was going, which was just great for me. Yeah it was a little slow, but not too bad. I sure do like to see Rufus Sewell in a pretty decent role, but He really deserves some lead roles like he had in the highly under-rated "DARK CITY." (Well Joblo rates it well.) I would recommend this to just about everyone, particularly to fans of mysterys. The love story is a little corny, but that the story doesn't focus on it quite too much. Who knew Jessica Biel could be that convincing of an actress. She was just frieking gorgeous in those period costumes, but she still won't compare to the loveliness of her rocking body in "Blade Trinity!"
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2:53AM on 01/09/2007
This was quite the surprise for me. I adored this film's look, particularly with the darkened edges of the reel and its beautiful photography, as well as its actors, all four of whom give strong showings. Edward Norton is great as usual, as is Paul Giamatti in a different type of role. Heck, even Jessica Biel surprised me. I found her to be both stunningly beautiful (when is she not?) and very charming. I hope to see her take on more roles like this, ones that allow her to build up her acting
This was quite the surprise for me. I adored this film's look, particularly with the darkened edges of the reel and its beautiful photography, as well as its actors, all four of whom give strong showings. Edward Norton is great as usual, as is Paul Giamatti in a different type of role. Heck, even Jessica Biel surprised me. I found her to be both stunningly beautiful (when is she not?) and very charming. I hope to see her take on more roles like this, ones that allow her to build up her acting muscles.

The film's story is well-written, filled with magic, mystery, intrigue, and even some romance. I have to mention Phillip Glass' amazing score, and of course, the rich visuals.

All in all--very well done.
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1:09PM on 01/03/2007

Meh

I liked The Prestige better and I'll tell you why. In The Prestige they pretty much showed you how every trick was done... and each trick seemed like a believeable trick that someone could do without real magic. But in The Illusionist that wasn't really the case. For example the orange tree trick. I'm pretty sure that was done with CGI... so it's not so cool. I mean stage magic in a movie isn't cool if you are just gonna cheat with some cheap CGI bullshit.
I liked The Prestige better and I'll tell you why. In The Prestige they pretty much showed you how every trick was done... and each trick seemed like a believeable trick that someone could do without real magic. But in The Illusionist that wasn't really the case. For example the orange tree trick. I'm pretty sure that was done with CGI... so it's not so cool. I mean stage magic in a movie isn't cool if you are just gonna cheat with some cheap CGI bullshit.
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12:45PM on 01/02/2007

Pleasent Surprise

I went to this movie without any knowledge of what it was about. I was saying "Wow, this is just going to be a total ripoff of The Prestige, and it is going to suck"

By the time i finished it, though, I realized that when you look at it in a different way, The Prestige and this one are pretty different.

Back on how the movie was: I thought Edward Norton did a great job acting. Paul Giamatti was also really good in it. He was humorous and serious at the same time, which is always a nice
I went to this movie without any knowledge of what it was about. I was saying "Wow, this is just going to be a total ripoff of The Prestige, and it is going to suck"

By the time i finished it, though, I realized that when you look at it in a different way, The Prestige and this one are pretty different.

Back on how the movie was: I thought Edward Norton did a great job acting. Paul Giamatti was also really good in it. He was humorous and serious at the same time, which is always a nice plus. This is one of the only movies that I liked Jessica Biel's acting in, too. This film shows that she is a great star, and hopefully she can do more movies like this in the future.

The story, though hard to follow for me at first, was very good. I especially loved the twist at the end.

Philip Glass' cinematic score was nothing short of fantastic. It played along with the visuals in perfect synchronization, and is one of the best of the year, personally.

The camerawork, from what i remember is very good, as well....nothing unbelievable, but great, nonetheless. The editing and writing were really great. Editing because of the way they lead you to believe one thing, then it comes back around and shows you something different. I think if any movie does this, it is gimmicky, but for some reason, this film was different....i actually like that they did that.

Overall, I still like The Prestige a little better (because i am a biased Christopher Nolan fanatic, lol), but this is still a very welcome entry into the year's movies, and is definitely going to be in my DVD collection.
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11:55AM on 01/02/2007

OVER! RATED!

What a snooze fest this one was. Give me THE PRESTIGE instead.
What a snooze fest this one was. Give me THE PRESTIGE instead.
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