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The Illusionist

A drama movie directed by Neil Burger

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Most of the Film Was Really Good or Was it an Illusion?

  • Apr 29, 2009
  • by
The movie opens with Richard Norton on a stage in late 1800's Austria performing some sort of magic trick when a group of soldiers bursts in to arrest him. The rest of the movie is a "flashback" leading up to that scene. We find Norton's character as a boy coming across a mysterious man by a tree. You don't know if Norton actually met him or imagined him as the guy disappears. Norton has an interest in magic and his character meets a well to do girl who he becomes friends with. The two sneak off together so Norton can show her his magic tricks and generally hang out (like friends in a clubhouse).

The girl's parents infuriated that she has taken up with a "commoner" come after her. When they are about to get caught the girl begs Norton to make them disappear. Norton tries but fails and the two are caught. The girl is brought home forbidden to ever see Norton again.

Years later Norton has become a famous magician with the name of Meisenheim. He is watched by a police chief who is somewhat of an amateur magician himself. He is fascinated by Meisenheim and begs to be shown one of Meisenheim's tricks where he makes an orange tree seemingly grow out of a flowerpot instantaneously.

At one of Meisenheim's shows he calls a volunteer to assist him from the audience and it is the fiancée (Jessica Biels) of the heir to the Austrian throne. Meisenheim realizes it is his childhood friend because she is wearing the same magic locket that he gave her when they were kids. He becomes infatuated with her and starts to pursue her.

Meanwhile the police chief, loyal to the Austrian heir is keeping a close watch on Meisenheim, suspecting something may be afoot between him and Biels. The police chief has his own agenda as he was born a peasant and believes through faithful support of the heir, he can rise to Mayor when then heir becomes the next emperor.

The rest of the movie becomes a game of cat and mouse between Meisenheim, the police chief and the heir and Biels and you are not sure if what you suspect to be is true or an "Illusion" as the title of the movie suggests. Not really a spoiler but the real facts are only revealed in the last sequence, which seems to happen so fast that if you watched it on DVD you would need to rewind several times.

I thought that the acting of the police chief and the heir were superb but Norton and Biel's performances were just okay. The movie seemed to drag in parts and even when you see the explanation at the end, some of the scenes seemed to not be feasible based on the explanation given. All in all I give it between 3 ½ and 4 stars and I do agree with some of the critics that said that the special effects seemed to be low budget.

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More The Illusionist reviews
review by . December 30, 2009
As good as The Prestige and more....
Like Morpheus said in the Matrix," What is real? How do you define real?" Well I'm here to tell you that after you see this movie you'll be asking yourself that very same question, The Illusionist is dark, mysterious, taunt, intelligent,complex, breath taking and enchanting. It's a film for the ages.            When I first saw The Illusionist I was kind of skeptical. I kept thinking that Neil Burger had ripped off The Prestige and created his own …
Quick Tip by . August 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
this movie didnt get much box office attention but i picked it up in a bargin bin and i really like it....the story line is really compelling and dramatic.
Quick Tip by . August 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Smart, enjoyable, and quite surprising at the end, The Illusionist will appeal to anyone with an affinity for mysteries, magic, or Edward Norton (What? He's awesome!)
Quick Tip by . June 04, 2010
Eh, it was all right. I felt like it was a rip-off of The Prestige.
review by . December 24, 2008
DVD cover
It's odd, but in the year 2006 there were two major motion pictures to feature stories about magicians and/or illusionists. The first film was The Illusionist, while the second film was The Prestige. In my humble opinion The Prestige is a superior film mainly because of the film's technical execution under the watchful eye of director Christopher Nolan.    But I digress.    The Illusionist is a surprisingly engaging suspense film with strong supernatural or "fantasy" …
review by . February 11, 2009
It is 1900 in Vienna, and the Chief Inspector (Paul Giamatti) is telling the story of a peasant boy who was once the secret playmate and love of little Countess Sophie; they planned to run away together, but their plan was discovered and they were separated. The boy traveled the world and learned the secrets of magic, returning home as "Eisenheim, the Illusionist" (Edward Norton). He is reunited with the Countess (Jessica Biel) again, quite by accident, during one of his shows and they resume their …
review by . March 06, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Others have discussed the plot of the movie, so I won't bore you with minutia.    The Illusionist is an exquisite love story (a genre I'm not normally fond of) and supernatural mystery. (Is it supernatural...or is it an illusion? That question is part of what makes this movie so alluring.)    With the amazing ability to morph into any character, Ed Norton is one of America's finest actors (remember his turn as a mentally/physically challenged man in The Score--or …
review by . November 20, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
`The Illusionist' provides great, old-fashioned fun. Much like `The Prestige,' it is a magician's movie that requires the audience to keep their eyes on the subject. This time the titled `illusionist,' Eisenheim (Edward Norton) is at the top of his form, but instead of wanting fame and fortune like the magicians in `The Prestige,' he keeps his eyes on the duchess, the love interest of the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). At one point his fame gets him invited to an affair held by the Crown Prince, …
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About this movie


First screened in Europe and scheduled for limited release in the U.S.,The Illusionistoffers welcome proof that "arthouse" quality needn't be limited to the arthouses. Set in turn-of-the-century Vienna, this stately, elegant period film benefited from a crossover release in mainstream cinemas, and showed considerable box-office staying power--granted, teenage mallrats and lusty males may have been drawn to the allure ofSeventh Heavenalumna Jessica Biel, who rises to the occasion with a fine performance. But there's equal appeal in the casting of Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, who bring their formidable talents to bear on the intriguing tale of a celebrated magician named Eisenheim (Norton) whose stage performance offends the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), a vindictive lout who aims to marry Duchess Sophie (Biel), Eisenheim's childhood friend and now, 15 years later, his would-be lover. This romantic rivalry and Eisenheim's increasingly enigmatic craft of illusion are investigated by Chief Inspector Uhl (Giamatti), who's under Leopold's command and is therefore not to be trusted as Eisenheim and Sophie draw closer to their inevitable reunion. Cleverly adapted by director Neil Burger from Steven Millhauser's short story "Eisenheim the Illusionist," and boasting exquisite production values and a fine score by Philip Glass,The Illusionistis the kind of class act that fully deserved its unusually wide and appreciative ...
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Director: Neil Burger
Genre: Drama
Release Date: August 18, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 49min
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