The Illusionist

Written and Directed by Neil Burger
On general release from 2nd March 2007

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

I must admit this film did not cast a spell over me. It was ponderous, sickly romantic and often poorly acted - for example, the accent of Eisenheim (Edward Norton) changed in intonation throughout.

But there were some saving graces: the mesmeric soundtrack by the American composer Phillip Glass; the way writer-director Neil Burger cleverly uses the old style methods of film-making such as certain scenes closing as if disappearing to a pinhole, and the magic performed by Eisenheim on stage, particularly in appearing to bring to life people who had recently died.

The Illusionist centres on Eisenheim, a great magician, who comes into conflict with Crown Prince Leopold from Vienna (Rufus Sewell), after Eisenheim humiliates the latter during a trick.

The prince is further enraged when he discovers that his fiancée Sophie (Jessica Biel) is having an affair with Eisenheim, with the two having met up for the first time since they were childhood sweethearts.

Despite the passion they professed to each other, there was little sexual chemistry between them on screen. Norton, who starred in The Departed as a hard-nosed cop, did not appear comfortable as a romantic lead character.

There are some intriguing twists and turns in the plot, notably at the end, but ultimately it was less than entrancing.

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