The Illusionist (Blu-ray)
As a young boy Eisenheim is seduced by both the art of magic and a young noble girl whose love was forbidden. Separated from his love he traveled the world mastering his craft only to return years later to the home and love he left behind setting the stage for an unbelievable performance.
THE ILLUSIONIST came out back in 2006 and is an example of the Hollywood’s “idea to the second power” principle where they release two films the same year about the same thing. The concept here is magic and the other film is THE PRESTIGE. Fresh off the BATMAN BEGINS/Christopher Nolan high (not to mention how cool the trailer was) I opted for THE PRESTIGE over THE ILLUSIONIST and as such never really got around to watching it until now. Since I’ve only watched THE PRESTIGE once, I’ll have to re-watch both films a second time to see which is my favourite of the two but rest assured I’m not taking anything away from this film as it was truly amazing.
I’m an avid fan of magic, illusions and all things mysterious or supernatural. I wasn’t around for the Houdini days but I’ve seen David Copperfield twice and still revel at his ability to captivate a crowd. I consider myself a pretty smart guy but even I shook my head in amazement more often than not. Both THE ILLUSIONIST and THE PRESTIGE utilize a fine arsenal of magic tricks though sadly more so in THE PRESTIGE than here. What Eisenheim does on stage is nothing short of spellbinding but the film does shy away from magic as the story progresses and becomes something else. The good news is that it works marvelously for many reasons, one of which being that it’s so well written and superbly acted.
Edward Norton has been (and will always be) one of my favourite actors since PRIMAL FEAR. For some reason he’s able to pull of just about any sort of character, from a skinhead to the Hulk and you believe it from start to finish, at least I do anyway. I had no problem whatsoever believing in Eisenheim especially once I saw the whole picture. Paul Giamatti was sensational here as well, I mean I enjoy the guy and all but this was by far one the strongest and best characters I’ve seen him play (that and I enjoy his dark side because as ridiculous as it was SHOOT ‘EM UP was still lots of fun thanks to him). Biel was Biel (I never feel she’s truly there) and Rufus Sewell is always a delight though I wish he’d go back to his DARK CITY roots and play another good guy for a change.
THE ILLUSIONIST was an impressive delight and my only real complaint is that I waited so long to watch it. I should have known I’d love it as I loved THE PRESTIGE and Clive Barker’s underrated LORD OF ILLUSIONS, now there is a concept I’d like to see two more films employ, that being the evil side of magic. Speaking of the evil side of the coin, I also enjoyed THE SKELETON KEY (though I might be the only one). There are plenty of films that dabble in magic, the supernatural or the dark arts but rarely do we get films that are dedicated to it like this one. That said, you rarely get such a phenomenal cast and epic script either so I feel extra lucky for being able to review this flick. Take it from me folks, if you have yet to catch this film, there’s no time like the present.
When so many great things fall into place in a film it becomes nothing short of a delight to watch. That’s how I felt while watching THE ILLUSIONIST, completely delighted from beginning to end. This is a fantastic story of magic and intrigue told competently, in just the right tone and brought to life with just the right actors. What more can you ask for, better special features I suppose but we can’t win ‘em all.
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen in 1080p HD with AVC codec. Vienna looked fantastic as did the theatre stage settings, overall the transfer was phenomenal.
Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD in English, French and Spanish with the same subtitle options. The score was excellent, the accents believable and as I said, the script was well written.
Commentary with Neil Burger: Writer/Director Neil Burger walks us through the film expressing his love and admiration for all things magic. I couldn’t agree more and share his enthusiasm as I wish they would make more films like this one, THE PRESTIGE and LORD OF ILLUSIONS.
The Making of The Illusionist (3:59): This short feature doesn’t explain how they made the film, rather has the actors (and actress) explain a bit about their characters and/or roles in the film instead.
Jessica Biel on The Illusionist (1:29): Yeah…this segment is about a minute and a half of Biel talking about her character just as she did in the previous feature including what she’s already said. It annoys the hell out of me when they do this.
Previews: There is a theatrical trailer as well as a handful of other previews. This combo pack features a separate Blu-ray and DVD copy of the film.