Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Illusionist

The Illusionist is a cinematic spectacle. It's a great mix of romance, suspense, and mystery with a rich visual texture set in early twentieth century Vienna. Edward Norton is superb as the mysterious Eisenheim, an enigmatic purveyor of the "dark arts" who seems to have taken the skill of magic beyond mere tricks into the realm of the supernatural, spiritual, and mystical worlds. He is backed by a talented cast that includes Paul Giamatti as Chief inspector Uhl, hired by the corrupt and jealous Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) to discover the secrets of Eisenheim's illusions. Jessica Biel is more than credible as the beautiful Sophia - caught in a triangle of amorous intrigue between her childhood friend Eisenheim, and the calculating, evil Leopold. There are enough plot twists to provide intrigue, but they only serve to enhance the grand crescendo of events leading to the final scenes. The early childhood scenes border on being overly sentimental, but do not detract at all from the screenplay. It would be fascinating to discover if any of the more elaborate illusions depicted in the movie could actually be done - then or now. For my taste, one of the best movies of the decade.

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