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:
[Wide Screen, Color]
[Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
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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The Illusionist 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Steven Millhauser's brilliant little short story 'Eisenheim the Illusionist' is beautifully realized cinematically by Neil Burger who not only adapted the story as a screenplay but also directed with a great flair for the subject. Wisely using the repeated line 'Nothing is what it seems' Burger infuses this dark investigation into the lives of the divided Viennese classes and suggests the crumbling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with the focus on the illusory magic of one Eisenheim (finely characterized by Edward Norton) and its effects on the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) and the bifurcated Duchess Sophie (Jessica Biel). As children Eisenheim and Sophie were friends despite the disparity of their class: Sophie was royalty (a Duchess) and Eisenheim was the son of a cabinetmaker to the court. They fall in love but are separated by caste and Eisenheim wanders Asia and Russia learning the vagaries of magic and illusionist tricks while Sophie is raised at court to become the wife of Crown Prince Leopold, whose plans to overthrow his father the Emperor to become the King of both Austria and Hungary have made him an obsessive scoundrel. Years later Eisenheim enters Vienna as a showman, under the tutelage of his impresario Josef Fischer (Eddie Marsan), delighting audiences with his illusionist tricks. His impossible love for Sophie resurfaces and he becomes suspect in his role as an illusionist and as a threat tot he Crown. Eisenheim is investigated carefully by Chief Police Inspector Uhl (a brilliant role by Paul Giamatti) and the manner in which the fates of the Crown versus the love of Eisenheim and Sophie are resolved is, well, 'Nothing is what it seems'. The cast is outstanding, the setting (in Prague) is incredibly atmospheric, and the costuming and lighting and cinematography marry into a perfect fit. Adding to the illusionist spirit of the film is the fine musical score by Phillip Glass so well loved for his score for 'The Hours' and one of our most important classical music composers of the day. THE ILLUSIONIST is a fine, misty, dark evocation of life in La Belle Époque of Vienna, based enough on fact that the fiction employs the concept that nothing is what it seems. Grady Harp
Guest More than 1 year ago
While this film has a number of stereotyped plot points - a peasant boy who finds his fortune, a forbidden love, a cruel ruler, a Samuel Gerard/Inspector Jovere character, and a twist ending - The Illusionist is far more than the sum of its parts. Far too few creative turn-of-the-century dramas draw popular interest these days, and The Illusionist makes the case that more should be made. Edward Norton plays a young Houdini-esque magician in Austria who wows the populace and, in the process, finds his lost love, Jessica Beale, is betrothed to a cruel nobleman who controls Paul Giamatti's penultimate, highly suspicious detective. Can the young magician save his beloved from a loveless marriage and thwart the designs of the evil prince? While the "twist" ending of the film can be figured out about halfway through by the astute film buff, even the most cynical viewer will want to stick around until the end to find exactly how the twist was accomplished. Edward Norton is superb, Jessica Beale holds her own, and Paul Giamatti is very convincing as the corrupt policeman reluctantly seeking redemption. The film's only flaw are its special effects - the early illusions pulled off by Norton's character at the beginning of The Illusionist are accomplished by rudimentary digital effects, and one wonders why the film's director didn't decide to actually accomplish "real" illusions on film and get a buzz started about the film that way. However, as the plot of the film advances and the illusions advance with it, the early effects are soon forgotten. In all, The Illusionist is a superb effort at bringing some good old-fashioned intrigue and thrills to the movies. You'd do well to check it out.
Joyachiever 7 months ago
The Illusionist film is a movie that my husband first introduced me to around 2006/2007 when we were living in Florida and it was great to watch the Illusionist together again this week. The Illusionist features a movie trailer to Gray Matters and the movie itself is a deep and complicated history between the characters of Duchess Sophie Von Teschen (Jessica Biel) and Eisenheim The Illusionist (Edward Norton). Duchess Sophie Von Teschen is set to marry the emotionally cold but intellectually gifted Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). I do completely accept that Sewell was just putting his best in the role, it was just that I was extremely shocked by how his Prince Leopold character is required to treat Eisenheim’s character and that of his wife Sophie so abrasively just because he can. Chief Inspector Walter Uhl (Paul Giamatti) is Crown Prince Leopold’s right hand man who is required to start spying on Eisenheim after a witness tattles on Eisenheim and Duchess Sophie immediately after they are spotted simply just talking in a carriage together.
utdelilah More than 1 year ago
Highly entertaining. One of my favorite movies
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The first of two wide release movies involving Magicans. Filmed in and around Prague. Stunningly beautiful. Prince Leopold is always one breath away from exploding in an angry tirade. The story is seductive and Giamotti, Norton, and Biel are all well cast. A foreign film that will be very much at home in any American living room or video collection. Norton will win the women's hearts, while Biel is magic as his childhood love. If you own Chocolat you'll want this film.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Illusionist works on so many levels. It is one of the most romantic films I've seen and also one of the most mysterious. Throw in the history of Austria and their nobility and you have a great,compelling film with very good acting by everyone in the cast.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie does move slow at times, but it's all worth it for the ending. Great movie, great acting. See this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fans of American Movie Classics & Turner Classic Movies will love this movie. A classic movie with a great storyline, no unnecessary violence, nudity or obsencities. Worth watching at least twice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been waiting for a movie like this ever since I read Mr. Strange and Dr. Norell. This movie was wonderful and I highly recommend it to all. This was PG-13? No way. PG at the most. Good heavens they rated SAW II PG-13 and you KNOW that has got to be wrong just from the commercials.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best movies I've seen in a while. Very well done.
Guest More than 1 year ago
THE ILLUSIONIST, is now one of my favorite is great and you will never get kept me anxious for the next move and awaiting every chapter! great movie
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like this genre, this movie is wonderful. The plot moves along and the acting, especially by Giamatti and Norton, is exceptional. However, the twist is fairly visible early on unlike the Prestige. If you are looking for a great magician movie, The Prestige is a better choice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow. This movie was so beautifully shot and well acted. I didn't predict the ending, but I wasn't trying to predict it because I was so caught up in the sheer mystical and gorgeous quality of the film itself. The score by Phillip Glass was sensual and moody. Everyone keeps comparing this film to Prestige. I watched them back to back and there is no comparison. This is a much better movie. The stories are completely different, I'm not really sure why the two films keep getting compared in reviews. I thought the Illusionist was a visual feast with a great story and wonderful acting, especially by Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't know what to expect when I saw this movie... I had heard nothing about it nor seen any trailers for it. From the first scene, I was a bit sceptical but I was quickly drawn in. Ed Norton's Eisenheim was brilliant and the illusions were amazing. The love he had for Sophie "Jessica Biel" was heart warming, this love he carried for her since they were kids. I was so caught up in the story that I didn't even see the end coming. Great movie, great cast!
Guest More than 1 year ago
this movie never kept you wondering until the very end when everything was spilled out before you. It is about an illusionist named Eisenheim. The movie first tells about his past and then goes on to tell about the preasent. I love the way they presented everything in this movie. All the actors were great, everything. There were many twists, and if you don't understand what happens at the end i suggest you watch it again. when i did, it helped out a bunch and i loved it even more. however, i still am certain that the first time you watch it will be the best because you don't know the ending. There are magic tricks in this movie, romance, and many other things that make it great. Rent it, buy it, borrow it, do whatever you can to get it. You won't be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first heard of this movie i didnt expect much of it. but as soon as I started wathing I couldn't simply take my eyes of the screen. It's a great movie, great story, great actors, great picture. As soon as I was done I wanted to watch it again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
you have two movies with theme and story on magic. the illusionist i liked and as always norton does an aweesome job, giamatti was not bad himself and biel was a surprise but did an alright job. when they were showing the flashback to when they were kids, did anyone else get a reminder feeling of lord of the rings, the younger version of eisenhem looked like frodo even his clothes seemed like frodos. anyway this is about the illusionist and his love for sophie who is engaged to another who has secrets of his own who i didn't recognize with a beard after seeing him clean shaven in dark city. the prestige on the other hand was interesting and kinda confusing than this one but love love bale and jackman...bowie was a surprise like luke wilson in 3 10 to yuma. the prestige is the story of two magicians and the competition of being the best and etc. both movies are good and have their twist ending. i wonder why people thought the prestige was a "sequel" to batman begins when it clearly wasn't?
IreneNY More than 1 year ago
I watched this movie right after viewing 'The Prestige' (kind of a magician/illusionist overload). While both movies were wonderful, 'The Illusionist' seemed to have a different feeling and overall tone to it. It was filmed beautifully (it looked like an older film), the acting was wonderful, and the ending of the film was spot on! I highly recommend this movie :)
Aglaia More than 1 year ago
This film was made in the same year as The Prestige (another gem) and Spoof, and all three films have magic as their main theme. I have seen the Illusionist twice and both times, I liked it. It is set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and though a love story (and a very sweet one at that), it is truly about magic and how it can change our perception of the reality. Edward Norton is superb, as always. Jessica Biel is very good as well, I think she would have made a fine Austrian princess and Rufus Sewell is excellent - that guy can play bad boys. Paul Giamatti is a grand favourite of mine, and once again he delivers. The film was shot in Prague (although it is supposed to be set in Vienna), and the photography is amazing. The plot is very clever, and the ending is great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago