The Illusionist is an entertaining piece of work and it sparkles visually too. What more could you ask for in a summer thriller? Okay, full disclosure, this one is actually a full out drama with only tiny bits of suspense thrown in. So while not suspensful it does have some romantic spicing thrown in which the ladies out there (hello ladies) will appreciate. I won’t say it’s got something for everyone because I am sure there are people that hate magic or Ed Norton or Vienna.
Speaking of, Edward Norton turns in another solid performance (why is he so underappreciated?) as Eisenheim the Magician. Jessica Biel is the female lead and her performance hints that there may be a real actress buried somewhere beneath all the good looks. Guess who else is in it? Paul Giamatti! Frankly I’d watch him in an infomercial so I’m not the most objective source but I thought he was great here too as a cop trying to shut Eisenheim’s gig down.
Before I get too far into this I should probably share a plot thought or two. The story is of a magician, both mysterious and forlorn. Not a lot of jovial magicians out there, eh? Eisenheim is man from nowhere with tricks for days in turn of the century Vienna. He meets a lady of stature (Biel) and we’re off and running. There are some twists and turns but nothing is too shocking or ridiculously dumb, instead the effort feels slightly above average throughout.
Unlike A Brothers Grimm this one uses magic effectively to further the plot and give the audience some eye candy. The only knock I can think of on The Illusionist is logic, perhaps with a dash of story relevance thrown in. The knock is based on there being times in this where it feels like the tricks are flat out impossible. This could theoretically take away the beauty of them if you are a particularly grounded person; I’ve learned from tough experience that not all people care about great visuals, some need uber-coherent stories behind them too. Me, I’m happy with one or the other in most cases movies don’t deliver either one. I also think caring about story too much in movies is silly because two hours is far too little to weave something as intricate as a book or season long TV show might. So unless the story is appallingly stupid I give a certain amount of credit for effort.
That said, the person I went with to this one was less of a fan than I was. I think he may be one of those story people, always looking for a new twist or zinger that he couldn’t have seen coming. The Illusionist is not that film, instead it’s a nice date night that won’t tax your brain too much or too often. You’ll like the look of it, even though it doesn’t have a nude Biel (sadly the director couldn’t pull that trick off). If you like magic or any of the leads it’s worth the seven dollars (or 15 if you live in L.A.). However, if you’re one of the complex story needing folk might I suggest a book, they’ve always done the trick for me.