The Illusionist (2006)
Starring: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan
Directed by: Neil Burger
I was mildly interested in seeing this movie, but nowhere near as interested as I am for the other old-time magician movie set to come out. But, I figured that if The Illusionist didn’t have the bad luck of coming out at the same time as another magician movie (cause, really, what are the odds? That’d be like there being two movies about Truman Capote writing In Cold Blood), I would’ve been more interested in it. So I figured I’d see it and judge it on its own merits, especially since I don’t know yet if the other one is any good.
Turns out, I should’ve just waited for the Batman and Wolverine magic movie. Or, I could’ve just gotten back into watching Criss Angel or something. Or just saved my money in general. Here’s the thing, it’s not so much that The Illusionist is a bad movie per se, it’s just so inconsequential as to be rendered worthless. There’s a decent, albeit unfulfilling, story, there’s some decent, albeit unexciting, visuals. The performances are alright by the two leads (Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti), who make the movie better than it would otherwise be, but nothing spectacular. I’ve seen some bad movies lately, movies worse than this one, but this one was more inessential.
Just a whole bunch of plain oatmeal, making for an incredibly blah movie-going experience. I wasn’t excited by it, but I was offended by it. I was just bored by it. The movie tells the tale of Eisenheim the Illusionist (Norton), who uses his magical prowess to win his way back to his childhood love Sophie (Jessica Biel). Unfortunately for him, Sophie is engaged to the crown prince of Austria (Rufus Sewell), who has the chief inspector of the police force (Giamatti) keep tabs on Sophie, becoming the foil of Eisenheim. It’s a cross between a middle of the road period romance, and a mystery that isn’t all that mysterious. I had it figured out right away, so the big reveal at the end didn’t impress me. Granted, I knew going in that there was a twist ending (without knowing what the twist was), so I guess I was looking for a twist; but I think it’s a good rule of thumb that with movies involving illusionists, it’s safe to assume there’s a twist involved.
More annoyingly, there’s a cheat scene in the movie designed only to fool the audience, with no other character around to fool. That’s just plain lazy, and says a lot about the nature of this thin, thin story (unsurprisingly based on a short story). If you were really interested in the movie, or are a big fan of one of the lead performers, then you may get something out of it. Otherwise, not seeing it will add about as much to your life as seeing it added to mine. Which is nothing.