Movie Review: “The Illusionist”

   The Illusionist is a 2006 American period drama film written and directed by Neil Burger. Neil Burger is most recently known for directing The Divergent film.

   The film stars Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Jessica Biel.

   It received mainly positive reviews from critics, and was a success at the box-office.

   I wanted to see The Illusionist for a number of reasons, the first being that it was one of three films featuring magicians that were released in 2006. (The Prestige and Scoop are the other two)

    For the most part, I like films with magic incorporated into them. I liked Now You See Me and The Prestige, but when watching this film, I went in crossing my fingers that it would feature legitimate magic.  I wanted a film where everything could be explained and could actually happen. More or less, that’s not exactly what The Illusionist offered.

    The film tells the story of Eisenheim, a skilled magician and illusionist that uses his abilities as a way of profit. However, when he finds that his old flame is with another man, the Crown Prince, no less. He decides to use his powers to woo her once more and offer criticisms to the Prince. It evolves into more as it progresses, but that is basically the basis for the film’s frameworks.

    As I said, the film doesn’t offer up much in the way of realism. The acts done in the film aren’t actually feasible in reality. I was disappointed by this, but I suppose that I can’t completely call it a criticism about the film. They don’t have to answer for what I wanted after all. I will say at times I feel like it became ‘too much,’ and that, like Prestige, while it tried to offer potential solutions, it felt very over-the-top and silly at moments when it was meant to be achieving a certain level of seriousness.

    This is especially true for some of what he did towards the conclusion. At a point, I felt like it became unnecessary and cluttered with themes of the story. I can’t particularly decide how I feel about the conclusion. It feels like it is staring you boldly in the face and it makes sense with the themes from the film, but I can’t decide whether or not it’s another example of excess, or something that is too outlandish. I have mixed feelings about the ending, but it is definitely becomes a little silly and nonsensical leading up to it.

    I am not even talking about the tricks, which, albeit extend beyond the reach of what. Eisenheim should have been able to do, probably could have at least have been explained through a little information and suspension of belief. Even if we tried to explain it though, there are holes, and leads to assess that all of it is meant to be real.

     At a point though, I felt like it became unnecessary and cluttered with certain themes of the story.

    Most else about the film manages to hold well. Edward Norton brings a strong performance to his role, conveying various haggard emotions along the way to his endeavors. Meanwhile, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti don’t lag to far behind. While it definitely heads in different directions than I would have liked, I enjoyed the story as well.The feud between the Crown Prince and Eisenheim is intriguing. The Prince wants to be the smartest one in the room at all times, while Eisenheim quietly basks in the fact that he has rightful ownership of that title.

    I believe that it’s the performance from Edward Norton which really keeps everything together. Things that other-wise might have failed seem to work with his character, attitude, and behaviors.

    In conclusion, the film isn’t without its faults. There are moments here and there that I could have done without. However, through the acting from the cast and the entertainment-value, it manages to succeed more  than it fails.

Thanks for reading.

Rating: – Above Average

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