Thursday, September 21, 2006

eyeCandy: the Illusionist (2006) 4/5

The Illusionist is a bit of a rarity in the movie world today because, despite the potential for over-the-top supernatural elements that could have clouded the film, it has been executed with such tasteful restraint, providing an end product that is essentially without flaws. I didn't know what to think of the movie when I saw the previews but I am very happy to have finally seen it.

Set in Vienna around 1900, this tale revolves around a mysterious illusionist, Eisenheim (Edward Norton), who arrives in town to the delight of the audiences for whom he performs. However, when the ruthless and cynical Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) invites Eisenheim to his royal residence to perform, he gets more than he bargains for. The Prince's fiancee, Sophie (Jessica Biel - a strange choice for the role, but who performs suitably), becomes somewhat enthralled with Eisenheim - a situation beyond toleration for Leopold, who will stop at nothing to eliminate this "problem".

The film is based on the Steven Millhauser short story, Eisenheim the Illusionist, and the movie has wisely not been stretched to the breaking point - a problem with many films based on short stories. Instead we have a finely paced and totally compelling story with absolutely gorgeous period sets, rich characters, and superlative acting (Edward Norton is one of the finest actors of his generation and the wonderful Paul Giamatti has once again been given the opportunity to show his own copious skills as Chief Inspector Uhl, the Prince's right hand man).

The Illusionist has an intelligence such that, unless you are absolutely determined to figure out everything that is going on and second-guessing each turn of events, it allows the audience to simply flow with each twist and turn of the story - a journey that brings with it the surprise and delight that is entirely fitting with the film's title.
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9/21/2006 04:16:00 PM  

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