FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: Last night, I saw “The Illusionist,” which stars Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk , Fight Club), Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave, Sideways), Jessica Biel (Total Recall , Next), Rufus Sewell (Dark City, A Knight’s Tale), Eddie Marsan (Snow White and the Huntsman, Happy-Go-Lucky), Jake Wood (EastEnders [TV series], Red Dwarf [TV series]), Tom Fisher (The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing ), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals, Avengers: Age of Ultron), and Eleanor Tomlinson (Jack the Giant Slayer, Poldark [TV series]). It is written and directed by Neil Burger (Divergent, The Upside). Astounding magician Eisenheim (Norton) seeks to reunite with his former love Sophie (Biel), who is set to be engaged to the Crown Prince Leopold (Sewell).
It was the one film that sat on my shelf, having been seen but never reviewed. Why? I got it before this whole reviewing thing became something. For a while I had been meaning to get around to watch it again and finally analyze it. From what I recall, “The Illusionist” is a good film, and I was certainly taken aback by the surprise twist that was presented towards the film’s end (quite the illusion, if I do say so myself). Now rewatching the feature, I can say that it is a nice release to watch on a random Friday night. It isn’t something grand, nor as perplexing as I remember, but Neil Burger pulls together something enchanting to watch unfold. “The Illusionist” is your typical forbidden love tale, with the added bonus of magic thrown into the mix. Is Eisenheim really a magician or a straight sorcerer? I mean, the illusions he pulled off seem too otherworldly to have instructions. Granted, this is a film and visual effects were utilized to bring his tricks to life, but for these characters to figure it is all an act? I don’t know… it seemed too supernatural for me to think otherwise. Anyway, the movie presents itself in an interesting old-timey lut that brings old-time Europe to life. Well, that and the sleek cinematography and production design. Burger’s team pulls off an elegant looking feature that keeps itself small. Whether its an office or theater, most of this picture is confined to smaller spaces, with the occasional outdoor shot to really bring together this world. The crew did a great job, as did the cast, which consists of some solid choices. Edward Norton does it again, as does his co-stars (though the accents could be a bit better). Giamatti had to be my favorite of the bunch, particularly because his character proved to be more interesting. He makes his role likeable, even though he had to bring the hammer down on Eisenheim. His Inspector’s connection to the Crown Prince made for many situations where he was between a rock and a hard place, making for fun character development. While this is certainly Eisenheim and Sophie’s tale, there was a great B-story with Inspector Uhl. Overall, the story of “The Illusionist” works. It’s a contained plot with a clear-cut objective. An overarching twist is sprinkled throughout the story, with a satisfying conclusion to top things off. While I suspected the big twist this time around (though my mind was fuzzy on the details), I think it was all set up well. We’ve seen this kind of tale before and the outcome that follows. What gives this movie more of an edge is its infusion of magic, and the period piece it works in. It’s a classy film that speaks without much dialogue (a lot of eyebrow raises and such). While it isn’t the greatest flick I have ever seen, it does enough to keep me entertained and potentially recommend it to others. If you are looking for something fun to watch with a twist, give “The Illusionist” a go. FINAL SCORE: 85%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: