The Illusionist has the good fortune to star two of the best working actors appearing in film today Edward Norton (American History X) and Paul Giamatti (Sideways). Add into the mix the simply glorious and talented Jessica Biel and you should have a movie of note. The Illusionist entertains and engages while relating a parable about art, politics, power and belief.
The story is told as a flashback from the climax of the story back to the climax and followed by a dénouement in which all the questions the viewer had been wondering about are answered. The skill behind the camera is obvious from the start of the movie with a curiously sepia tone soaking virtually every frame even when the film has moved from the sepia opening to the full color of the rest of the movie. The cutting of the movie is terribly important in a movie about an illusionist and second time writer/director Neil Burger does a fine job of creating a movie that seems to seamlessly go from one event to another and most importantly maintains the illusion of continuity.
Burger manages to get a modern audience to suspend disbelief while watching a movie about magic which is a feat in itself. Edward Norton is convincingly intense as the great illusionist Eisenheim playing the role of the mysterious magician to a T while still not seeming to buy into his own propaganda. Inspector Uhl played faultlessly by Paul Giamatti serves the role of both the Prince’s stalking horse and the audiences voice of modern logic and reason and perhaps too a vision of realpolitik versus democratic ideals at the same time. Essentially The Illusionist is a love story about puppy lovers torn apart when young and brought back together when both have matured and understand the way the world works.
The beauty of the story lies in the efficacy of the parable with the freedom of the Duchess paralleling the freedom of the populace. The more people believe in Eisenheim the less they believe in the prince who plans to seize the throne and destroy democracy. The tapestry of story is a rich one with some unexpected moments that will leave you guessing. All in all The Illusionist is an entertaining movie and time well spent. On a final note – the extras on this DVD were added on without effort – directors commentary, a brief making of and a brief interview with Jessica Biel.