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The Illusionist - drama DVD review
The Illusionist rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Actors: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan
Director: Neil Burger   Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD release: 09 January 2006   Runtime: 110 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Subtitles (English, Spanish), Audio tracks (English, Dolby Digital 5.1), Commentary by writer/director Neil Burger, ""Making of The Illusionist" featurette, Jessica Biel on The Illusionist" featurette, Theatrical Trailer

The Illusionist is quite a unique combination of genres: one part period piece romance, one part mystery/thriller complete with clever twists (okay, so Mr. Shyamalan has run this slight of hand "Aha, I got you" type of movie into the toilet lately). But this movie strikes an amazing balance between a well-crafted story, good solid acting, and an engaging plot sure to entertain even the most jaded of movie fanatics. Based on the short story "Eisenhiem The Illusionist" by Steven Millhauser from his short story collection entitled The Barnum Museum: Stories (The American Literature Series), The Illusionist stars Edwards Norton (The Score, 25th Hour, Red Dragon) as the aforementioned Eisenheim. Also apart of this eclectic cast is Jessica Biel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blade: Trinity) as Sophie, and fresh off the disastrous M. Night creation (Lady in the Water is Paul Giamatti as Inspector Uhl.

At first glance, it's easy why a movie like this could be dismissed. There is always something about a short story (emphasis on the word short) being fleshed out into a full-length feature film. The first four or five minutes left me a bit cold; it seems to be just a bunch of unrelated nonsense that won't gel into a cohesive and comprehensible storyline. But lay aside your trepidation - the movie does get over this minor bump in the road and really gets cooking - thankfully; it could have easily gone down a path where it would been nominated for a Razzie far more easily than an Oscar.

With the backdrop of a fascistic late nineteenth-century Vienna as a backdrop, the theme of star-crossed lovers kept apart by class and society could have been a hindrance; it is actually anything but a deterrent to the story. Without giving too much away, the story centers on Eisenhiem and his quest to be with his love, Sophie. But there is a huge problem: Sophie is engaged to the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). There is also controversy over Eisenhiem's illusions and how they affect the public. This is where Inspector Uhl becomes a thorn in Eisenhiem's side. In the end, the movie all comes together with beautiful set pieces, solid direction from first-timer Neil Burger (he wrote the screenplay, too) and an amazing score by Phillip Glass.

Overall, The Illusionist is an excellent, enjoyable movie that pulls all the pieces of romance, mystery, and illusion together into a great payoff for the viewer. Highly recommended viewing for those who love good cinema.
reviewed by Bobby Blades
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