MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5)
Studio: Yari Film Group
Directed by: John R. Leonetti
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
A reclusive magician named Eisenheim (Edward Norton) has fallen in love with a Sophie (Jessica Biel). Unfortunately, Sophie is betrothed to the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). What starts out as professional admiration quickly turns into jealous competition as Eisenheim and Leopold vie for Sophie’s love. When Sophie turns up murdered, both men are suspects. Eisenheim falls into seclusion, but continues to perform as a magician. Soon, he makes contact with Sophie from beyond the grave, complicating the investigation of both Eisenheim and Leopold.
WHAT I LIKED
I remember when this film came out four years ago, it was compared (with good reason) to Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige.” While both films were their own story, they both dealt with turn-of-the-century magicians and had some pretty significant twists. “The Illusionist” had the advantage of coming out first, and that helped make it a hit before “The Prestige” took the box office ring.
I liked the film back when I saw it in the theater and later on DVD. It manages to be a period piece while escaping a lot of the humdrum boringness of a standard period piece. There’s a real mystery behind the film, and the driving force behind that comes from Paul Giamatti who plays a police inspector.
The key to this film was the acting. Edward Norton was okay as Eisenheim, though his arrogance comes through a little too much. And while Jessica Biel is pretty, she’s really nothing great in the film. But Giamatti steals the show, with Rufus Sewell also showing some excellent acting chops as the villain.
“The Illusionist” is a decent film and worth revisiting.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The movie doesn’t hold up quite as well as it could, and I fear that ten years from now, it will hold up even less. Rewatch this soon if you intend to because something about the digital effects to show Eisenheim’s abilities just doesn’t feel right any more. It’s a big difference that four years of special effects advances can make.
The most disappointing thing about this release is the bare-bones nature of the Blu-ray. Not only are there no special features on the hi-def disc, but there’s no subtitles or even a static menu. It’s just the movie… period. I mean, sure, the film looks fantastic in high definition (though the audio mix is a bit uneven), the only reason to buy this now is if you don’t already own the DVD and want to watch the hi-def transfer.
The saving grace is that “The Illusionist” Blu-ray comes packaged with the previously struck DVD, which includes a commentary track and two featurettes.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People looking for a period piece with a little magic in it.