topfivefilms.com Tuesday 18th January 2022
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The Illusionist (PG)
Directed by: Neil Burger
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

Edward Norton stars as the eponymous magician in this tale of love, murder and imperialism set in the 18th Century. Norton's character develops an interest in magic at an early age and at the same time falls in love with the daughter of a well known aristocrat. However, his family is too poor for that sort of thing, so he is forced to pack his bags and disappear around the world to discover more about the dark arts.

All these tricks are done with mirrors, you know
All these tricks are done with mirrors, you know

Years later he rocks up in Vienna under the title of The Great Eisenheim, and proceeds to wow the Viennese audiences, including the heir to the Empire, Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). The plot thickens when we discover that Eisenheim's childhood love is soon to be engaged to Leopold, who has a bit of a reputation for knocking his girlfriends about and occasionally murdering them. Nice chap.

Unsurprisingly, Eisenheim plans to spirit away his lover (Jessica Biel) from under the Crown Prince's nose. He also plans to further freak out the Viennese people by summoning spirits and communicating with dead people on stage. But is it all an illusion or part of a mysterious plan?

The film is beautifully shot and reasonably intriguing throughout, as it always treads the fine line of doubt concerning whether Eisenheim is truly a magician or just an illusionist. You might be thinking that the story and setting smack of The Prestige, and you'd be right. They are very similar films, but for my money The Prestige is by far the better of the two, because The Illusionist is simply too forgettable. So unless 18th Century magic really floats your boat, this one is not worth seeking out.

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Length: 110 minutes
Certificate: PG
Official Site: http://www.theillusionist.com/
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443543/
Release Date: 2nd March 2007

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