Every now and then, an indie film rises from amongst the bigger budget, wider-released movies to
become a true sleeper hit. The latest to understandably get such attention is The Illusionist, a
drama by first time director Neil Burger. Edward Norton stars in the lead as Eisenheim, a self-made magician
who makes a name for himself by creating groundbreaking feats before the eyes of the villagers in Vienna.
Norton steps away from his usual brand of roles to give one of his best and most intense performances to date.
Offering tricks and illusions that truly boggle the minds of anyone who sees them, he immediately begins
to attract the attention of Crown Prince Leopold (viciously played by Rufus Sewell) and his hired cop,
Chief Inspector Uhl (played by the always wonderful Paul Giamatti). Things only get trickier when his long
lost childhood love turns up as a stage participant from the audience and, more unfortunately, as the Crown
Prince's soon-to-be fiance'. What unfolds is a smooth drama with just as many tricks and slight-of-hand for
the theater audience as the audience of the great Eisenheim.
What makes The Illusionist a winner in its theatrics is the combination of the powerful
performances from Norton, Sewell, and Giamatti, coupled with gorgeous cinematography and a unique story.
Director Neil Burger knows how to use camera angles and ambiguity to the story's benefit. I was very surprised
this is Burger's first hand at a feature film. While the pacing could be slightly slow at times, the story
keeps it all moving forward. Norton plays Eisenheim stiff but intense; quiet, but mysterious. While some may
claim Eisenheim was a bit wooden, Norton plays him with near brilliance and is near unrecognizable as himself.
Jessical Biel fills the shoes as Eisenheim's love interest Sophie, turning in a fine albeit mostly forgettable performance.
Content for the movie is quite mild, considering. The most intense of the content, however, includes
the closeup of neck wound caused by a sword, as well a brief shot
of a dead body with blood on its head after committing suicide. Other than that, there's a brief montage scene of a sexual
encounter where we see closeup shots of skin being caressed, but nothing particularly explicit. It's
unnecessary but thankfully over about as quick as it starts.
Some viewers may be a bit concerned by the thematic material involving magic, and it's an understandable
concern. Eisenheim's gifts aren't really explained, and although many accuse him of carrying demonic powers,
the film ultimately points to otherwise. Some of the illusions are also a bit creepy (not to mention the
aforementioned murder scene), so younger viewers will want to pass on this more adult-oriented film.
I was overall quite impressed with what The Illusionist had to offer. A unique period drama with
a bit more to offer than meets the eye, The Illusionist may be one of the better films to come out of
the post-Summer movie season this year.
If you have any questions or comments about the film before you see it (if you
decide to), feel free to
- John DiBiase
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Sophie and Eisenheim
passionately kiss and begin undressing each other. We then see closeup shots of unidentifiable areas of
their skin as they caress each other during sex (it's not very expicit and is brief); Leopold asks
Uhl if Sophie and Eisenheim were "fornicating."
Vulgarity/Language: 1 "d*mn," 1 "G-d"
Alcohol/Drugs: Some people are seen with
casual drinks during the story.
Blood/Gore: We see some blood on the side of
a horse after a person is sliced with a sword; We see a bloody and slightly gory cut on the side of someone's
neck; A person puts a gun to their head and pulls the trigger as the shot cuts away. We then see their body
laying on the floor with a great deal of blood on the side of their head.
Violence: Leopold backhands Sophie
across the face; a person presumably slices another on the neck (we don't see it), we then see the victim ride
away on a horse, slouched over with blood seen stained on the horse; a dead body is found floating in the water;
a man threatens to kill another and then turns their gun on himself and kills himself.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most
reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.