First screened in Europe and scheduled for limited release in the U.S., The Illusionist
offers 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 of Seventh Heaven
alumna 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 Illusionist
is the kind of class act that fully deserved its unusually wide and appreciative audience. -- Jeff Shannon
Beyond The Illusionist Stills from The Illusionist
Unlock the mysteries of the year's most spellbinding film from the producers of Crash and Sideways! Oscar(r) nominees Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton lead an all-star cast in this "stunning" film (USA Today) that conjures an exhilarating blend of suspense, romance and mind-bending twists. The acclaimed illusionist Eisenheim (Norton) has not only captured the imaginations of all of Vienna, but also the interest of the ambitious Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). But when Leopold's new fiancée (Jessica Biel) rekindles a childhood fascination with Eisenheim, the Prince's interest evolves into obsession...and suddenly the city's Chief Inspector (Giamatti) finds himself investigating a shocking crime. But even as the Inspector engages him in a dramatic challenge of wills, Eisenheim prepares for his most impressive illusion yet in this "mesmerizing" (Entertainment Weekly) and "beautifully acted" (Good Morning America) film that "teases you until the very end!" (The New York Times).