I have always been of the opinion that Edward Norton can carry any film he's cast in. He can adapt to any role and shine even in mediocre films. The Illusionist is no different. Norton plays Eisenheim the Illusionist, a travelling magician who returns to his home of Vienna and attempts to reconnect with his long lost love, played by Jessica Biel. Through magic and illusions their sweaty, pseudo-British-accented love affair is exhibited.
Firstly, the film is beautifully shot. From the flashback sequence in the beginning to the depiction of 19th century Vienna, The Illusionist is very romantically charged.
The illusions performed throughout the film act both as spectacle and as plot development. Watching Eisenheim's tricks is possibly the best part of the film, and seeing how the illusions resonate on so many levels throughout the film was something truly unique and exciting.
The film also flaunts an innovative twist that is entirely noticeable even for experience movie goers. It honestly blows your mind and the moment when it's made clear is one of the best the film has to offer.
The acting is generally positive as well. Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti are brilliant in their roles, while sporting some of the best facial hair I have ever been fortunate enough to see.
Unfortunately, this all seems kind of familiar to me. Set in the 19th century. All about magicians and illusions. Two strong male leads. Oh wait... I'm pretty sure that all happened in The Prestige. And that also came out in 2006. It's so easy to get these films confused that even now I have to double check and make sure I'm reflecting on the right movie.
This film would be exponentially better if it weren't for The Prestige, and vice versa. Both films have such original ideas; they just happen to be original excluding each other. I don't know whose fault it is that these movies came out so close together, but they are definitely on my shit list. It's almost impossible to bring up The Illusionist in conversation without some guy saying "Is that the one with David Bowie?"
Wham bam thank you ma'am.
I do have to give a slight edge to The Illusionist in this battle, partially for the stylistic differences, but honestly, it's because of the kick ass beards.
This beer is given due to the fact that Jessica Biel delivers a sub-par performance and if it weren't for Rufus Sewell being Crown Prince Douchebag, I wouldn't root for her relationship with Eisenheim.
She lacks the qualities of the best leading ladies, and ultimately, the film suffers because of this.
Luckily, the film has Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti to combat this flaw. The illusions really are baffling and entertaining and the twist at the end is hardly foreseeable. Poor timing and casting are the reasons this film is as well known, and for that matter appreciated.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Shot: Every time Paul Giamatti talks about the Orange Tree Trick
Take a Drink: Every time you hear a phony accent
Take a Drink: For every Eisenheim performance
Take a Shot: If you know the solution to a trick
Shotgun a Beer: When the whole damn thing starts to make sense