Thursday, January 19, 2017

Movie #387: The Illusionist

The Illusionist is a period romance/drama starring Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti, and Rufus Sewell. It was an Oscar nominee some years back (Cinematography) which is why I saw it originally.

In 1889 Austria-Hungary, a magician named Eisenheim (Norton) wows the crowds with his tricks, and gets a visit from the Crown Prince (Sewell) who is, as is required in these movies, a douchebag. He also meets Chief Inspector Uhl (Giamatti), who is fascinated with his tricks, but also wants to rise above his station and follow the Prince to greatness. Turns out said prince is also engaged to Duchess von Teschen (Biel), who is Eisenheim's childhood sweetheart. Prince Douchebag, of course, goes full-on jealous rage, shuts Eisenheim down, and then seemingly kills the Duchess, prompting Eisenheim to switch from illusion to necromancy. He calls up the spirit of the Duchess, she intimates that the prince killed her, the prince shoots himself, justice is served. Of course, it's all an illusion (HA!) because Eisenheim smuggled her out with the other "magic chemical that makes you seem dead" routine and plants evidence to frame the prince, which is probably, like, super illegal, but whatevs, they're in love.

So, I'm being flip, but the truth is this movie is enjoyable. It's slow and light, but it's pretty, and while you can see the "twist" coming a mile away if you pay attention, it's still a good show. Plus, it deserved it's nom for cinematography. Norton is decent, Giamatti and Sewell are better, and Biel is wasted as Girlfriend (seriously, you learn literally not one thing about her, but you don't learn that much more about Eisenheim; the character you come away knowing the best is Uhl). Really, this movie's biggest problem is that it came out the same year as The Prestige, which was better scripted, better acted, had a hugely greater budget and had David Bowie as Tesla (but we'll get to the Ps eventually).

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-low

Next up: It Follows