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