The Movie Binge

Review: The Illusionist


It's been a while since a movie managed to put me convincingly in another time and place. Maybe it's just because I don't seek out those Merchant Ivory productions, the one widows watch to make their cobwebbed loins glow. Oh that Anthony Hopkins, so bold!

Anyhow, The Illusionist does succeed in putting the viewer into the softly lit, elegant atmosphere of Vienna (as played by Prague). As the movie unwraps sumptuous scenes, plotting and skullduggery it impresses most for what it refrains from doing.

Edward Norton as Eisenheim the Illusionist has more than a few tricks up his sleeve as a man who has spent the last fifteen years learning secrets of Asia Minor. Why did he go to the ends of the world to learn the secret arts of pulling rabbits out of hats? For love, for Sophie, Jessica Biel, a childhood romance that reignites when a grown Eisenheim has a performance stint in Vienna.

The movie loses no steam when it chases the love story between Jessica Biel as Sophie and Eisenheim, their chemistry is both believable and played just right. No crying or screaming in the rain.

Director, Neil Burger, runs a tight ship. Not a scene is wasted or extraneous and he resists the temptation to find a sappy subplot that would diminish the pervasive sense of yearning. No adorable moppet is a big plus in my book. I'll settle for an adorable Jessica Biel. Oh my, she acted the shit out of those riding pants.

The one place where The Illusionist trips up, only slightly, is at the end of the movie. Burger can't resist explaining how clever Eisenheim is, thereby robbing the movie of some mystic allure, but more than enough is left to leave the viewer satisfied.


I saw this at a free screening so I can't really complain can I? But I was expecting something really moving and I didn't get it. I thought Norton did a good job, and Paul Giametti is always good, even when everything around him sucks (thank you M. Night. But is there anyone more vapid than Jessica Biel? I don't think so. My real problem was the time line at the end of the story, I was never really sure how many days had passed. !!SPOILERISH!! And don't you think they would have mucked out the horse stalls sometime within those few days (or was it only one, see I don't know). I also didn't appreciate the "we shot this with magic a magic lantern" look, it was a little distracting.

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