The Illusionist 

 

2006
Magic gets the girl in this romantic Vienna-set period piece staring Edward Norton as illusionist Eisenheim. Written and directed by Neil Burger ("Interview with the Assassin"), this film is paced and ambient enough to seem truly magical.

Eisenheim works his charm to woo Sophie (Jessica Biel), a well-off woman from his childhood, from the arms of Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell).
 
Norton plays Eisenheim with understated grace and balance, giving his role a sort of loner creepiness. But Sewell's performance as the aristocratic tyrant outshines Norton's. Biel, who seemed horribly miscast for the role, pulls of a competent performance, as does Paul Giamatti as the chief police inspector dispatched by the crown prince to investigate Eisenheim's stage trickery.
 
The DVD release, disappointingly, brings few extras home. There is commentary by Burger, who doesn't really have anything to say, and two behind-the-scenes features. Sorely missed is commentary by Giamatti, but I would listen to him comment on just about anything.

-Joe Wertz

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