By Shamma M. Raghib
A Spellbinding Tale of Love and Magic
Starring: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti,
Jessica Biel, and Rufus Sewell
Directed by: Neil Burger
PG-13 for some sexuality and violence.
Campus Rating 7/10 (for all that magic)
Set in turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna, Edward Abramovitz (Norton), a twenty-something son of a cabinetmaker, is making a name for himself as a star magician under the name Eisenheim who arrives in town and dazzles/terrifies the populace with an astounding series of illusions. His illusions are so well performed that it's difficult to tell whether they're actually graphics or just good old sleight of hand!
Police inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), a guy who believes that he is quite a magician himself, and assumes that his position in the town entitles him to be given the secrets to Eisenheim's tricks, is one of the queer characters in the film. Yet another is Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), a dastardly type who is jealous of anyone else's fame and insists that he is smart enough to figure out the tricks on his own. At one point, he sends his fiancée to volunteer a magic trick. Eisenheim instantly recognizes Sophie as the girl he loved but was separated from as a lad…that too due to class difference.
Like all good fairy tales, the two discover that they are still very much in love and pick up where they left offmuch to Leopold's disappointment when he discovers what is going on. And you can guess the rest of the story…no? Okay then I will spoil a bit more…
Without going into too much detail, it eventually turns into a tale of love, jealousy, murder and the possibility that Eisenheim's gifts extend to the supernatural. In the middle of all this is Chief Inspector Uhl (Giamatti). Though of humble origins like Eisenheim, the inspector hopes his longtime efforts to tidy up the prince's legal imprudence will some day be rewarded by the mayoralty of Vienna. At the same time Uhl, an amateur magician himself, finds his sympathies drawn to Eisenheim. The two men become embroiled in a match of wits while Eisenheim courageously goes out of his way to provoke the evil prince.
Apart form the dreary looking casts and the predictable scenes; “The Illusionist” has its high tides! The cinematography, costumes and overall tone of the film help modern audiences forget it's 2006. The Czech locations are quite impressive and there are quite a few moments (such as Giamatti trying to figure out an illusion involving an orange tree) that work wonders. Okay, I am not going to reveal anything else to you, so be prepared to be magically blown out this month while I try to exercise to get over my fatty couch potato-self!
(R) thedailystar.net 2006