The Illusionist (2006)

NEIL BURGER

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB

Czech Republic/USA, 2006.  Bull’s Eye Entertainment, Bob Yari Productions, Contagious Entertainment, Michael London Productions, Stillking Films.  Screenplay by Neil Burger, based on the short story Eisenheim The Illusionist by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

The son of a poor carpenter is taken from the arms of his childhood sweetheart, herself a Duchess and therefore too far above him, and deals with it by hitting the road and learning the art of illusion. He returns to Vienna a grown man (as ) and performs such tricks as making audience members gasp with amazement, including the Crown Prince and future Emperor of Austria (). As it turns out, our illusionist’s childhood friend turns out to be the now grown beauty () who is set to take the Prince’s hand in marriage, inspiring a genuine fury from our hero when the two men’s egos begin to butt heads over her. This sumptuous, breathtakingly beautiful film is not only an involving, wonderfully told romantic drama, it includes aspects of the near-supernatural that give its audience something they rarely get to experience in movies these days: a genuine sense of wonder. When it’s not the photography filling your eye, it’s the music (a gorgeous score by Philip Glass) filling your ears, or the excellent dialogue for the mind. Either way, it possesses the soul that its contemporary magician movie The Prestige doesn’t have, and like a true magician, gives away enough of its secrets by the end without selling out its magic and undermining your imagination. A more than satisfying film highlighted by a shamelessly compelling lead performance by Norton, graceful work by Biel and unapologetic devotion to once again playing the heavy by Sewell.

Academy Award NominationBest Cinematography

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