Starring: Paul Giamatti, Ed Norton, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell
The two things that I truly remember from “The Illusionist” starring Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti is the haunting element of the film, and Paul Giamatti. In this tall tale we see the story of Eisenheim, played by Norton, through the eyes of Giamatti’s Police Official (the official name alludes me and I don’t notepad and pen like reviewers do) who is under the command of the tyrannical Rufus Sewell’s Crowned Prince who wants Eisenheim stopped because they want the same woman, a Duchess, played by Jessica Biel. Four main characters that are drawn into the world of illusion and magic tricks that far exceed the normal pick a card any card tricks. As audience members, we’re not fooled, these are all CGI created manipulations, but because the film is so skillfully directed, and Ed Norton so wonderfully charismatic, we buy into almost anything he does, even when we are given no explanation – only because – well, it’s magic. Why should the audience be given knowledge that none of the other characters have except for the magician. (It’s like not wanting to watch the behind the scenes clips on DVDs now days, leave some of it to the imagination, thank you.) Though at a certain point you have to believe that Eisenheim has more power than any simple mortal would have.
And that’s where the film draws it’s power from, you don’t know what Eisenheim is capable of. This is a slick and smart thriller/drama. Giamatti’s decisions as an actor continue to absolutely impress me. I’m astounded by his work, and range. The same with Sewell who I respected from the first time I saw “Dark City”. He has a way of making royalty respectable while remaining an absolute creep.
I honestly don’t like giving away too much about a movie like this, because it would spoil the experience. I wish other reviewers felt the same. So I will leave you with this. When “The Illusionist” opens in your area, go see it. Then rent another great film about a magician told through the eyes of a Jewish strong man before WWII, called “Invincible” directed by Werner Herzog and starring the other great character actor Tim Roth. Then take the time to see the other magician film out soon enough starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale directed by Chris Nolan (Batman Begins). It should be just as impressive, but in other ways as the two “I” magic movies listed above.