The Illusionist

4.7 60
Director: Neil Burger

Cast: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel


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A supernaturally talented magician attempts to undermine the rigid social structure of turn-of-the-century Vienna by using his powers to win the love of his upper-class, childhood sweetheart in director Neil Burger's cinematic adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser's short story. Though the ill-fated childhood…  See more details below


A supernaturally talented magician attempts to undermine the rigid social structure of turn-of-the-century Vienna by using his powers to win the love of his upper-class, childhood sweetheart in director Neil Burger's cinematic adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser's short story. Though the ill-fated childhood romance between cabinetmaker's son Eisenheim (Edward Norton) and upper-class Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel) eventually resulted in the heartbroken young man leaving Austria to explore the world, his dreams of one day reuniting with the beautiful duchess never faded. Upon returning to Vienna 15 years later as a talented and renowned illusionist, Eisenheim's hopes of a reunion seem dashed when he learns that Sophie is currently engaged to the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). As the tensions between the Eisenheim and Leopold elevate, urbane Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) finds his sympathy toward Eisenheim growing, despite his formal obligations to the powerful prince.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
A most welcome throwback to Hollywood movies of an earlier era, The Illusionist strives to keep its audience entertained in style; and through an unusually intricate script, unerring direction, perceptive performances, and meticulous production design, it succeeds mightily. Brilliantly blending aspects of period romance, supernatural thriller, and the whodunit, The Illusionist centers on Eisenheim (Edward Norton), a celebrated stage magician in turn-of-the-century Vienna who provokes the ire of Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). Caught between the two men is the clever Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti), who admires the illusionist while trying to uncover his secrets. The serpentine twists of the often bewildering but devilishly ingenious plotline will keep even the most perceptive at bay until the film’s closing minutes. In keeping with its theme, The Illusionist is a layered, multidimensional work. Some viewers will latch onto the theme of unrequited love, others will fix their attention on the magician’s craft, and still others will concentrate on fitting together the murder puzzle’s pieces. But all will be captivated by this richly textured drama, one of 2006’s very best motion pictures.
All Movie Guide
As a movie about magic, The Illusionist is a deft and beautiful magic trick of its own, making you only too happy to follow its suave and alluring misdirection so that its glorious big finish can have its full effect. Don't be surprised if you find yourself hoping against hope that The Illusionist's conjurings are real -- both those of the script and those performed by star magician Ed Norton. The film inspires us, in a rather innocent and old-fashioned style, to be carried off by its charisma and theatricality. This works in contrast to the direction of another dark and mysterious film about turn-of-the-century magicians that was released in close proximity, The Prestige. Comparisons between the two films have remained unavoidable, but while the fevered hunt in The Prestige is for the answer to how the magician performs his trick, in The Illusionist, this question takes a very modest back seat to the enchantment of its romantic melodrama. It plays out like a Victorian Wilkie Collins novel, wrapping its truly authentic characters in a haunting layer of dark and delicious drama. Even Jessica Biel, who may not seem a perfect fit to play Norton's star-crossed lover/an Austrian duchess, plays her part with ease, as her surrounding cast provides such richness that the audience requires little more from her than her quite believable devotion to the politically unpopular title character. The balletic repetitions of Philip Glass' score are expertly interwoven with each mysterious moment, offering both suspense and revelation with such precision, you may be reminded of The Usual Suspects or Sea of Love, despite the horses and carriages. The Illusionist is spun out of the very same fabric that it presents to you: the material of theatrics. It will prompt you again and again, through lush attention to period detail and the graceful transcendence of its archetypical characters, to give into the desire to believe what you see -- and more often than not, it succeeds. Norton's brooding, melancholy romantic lead and Paul Giamatti's ebullient star detective are so appropriate and so well crafted that what might seem boring or clichéd in the hands of less accomplished actors becomes a masterful web of interaction that we can only catch a glimpse of in one bewitching setting: a dark theater.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
20th Century Fox
Region Code:
[Full Frame]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Feature audio commentary by writer/director Neil Burger; The making of The Illusionist featurette; Jessica Biel on The Illusionist featurette

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Edward Norton Eisenheim
Paul Giamatti Chief Inspector Uhl
Jessica Biel Duchess Sophie von Teschen
Rufus Sewell Crown Prince Leopold
Eddie Marsan Josef Fischer
Jake Wood Jurka
Tom Fisher Willigut
Karl Johnson Doctor/Old Man
Aaron Taylor-Johnson Young Eisenheim
Eleanor Tomlinson Young Sophie

Technical Credits
Neil Burger Director,Screenwriter
Deborah Aquila Casting
Michael Bobcock Sound/Sound Designer
Ngila Dickson Costumes/Costume Designer
Vulcan Effects Special Effects
Petr Forejt Sound/Sound Designer
Jane Garnett Executive Producer
Naomi Geraghty Editor
Philip Glass Score Composer
Nina Gold Casting
Joey Horvitz Executive Producer
Thomas Karnowski Co-producer
Brian Koppelman Producer
Stefan Kovacik Art Director
David Levien Producer
Ted Liebowitz Executive Producer
Michael London Producer
Jan Mensik Asst. Director
Tom Minkowski Co-producer
Ondrej Nekvasil Production Designer
Tom Nunan Executive Producer
Kieron Phipps Asst. Director
Dick Pope Cinematographer
Cathy Schulman Producer
Matthew Stillman Co-producer
Vlasta Svoboda Art Director
Rudolf Tudzaroff Special Effects Supervisor
Tricia Wood Casting
Bob Yari Producer

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