Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - July, 2010


"The Illusionist" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton



Set in turn-of-the-century Vienna, this stately, elegant period is intelligently written and worthy of your time to view. Ms. Beil’s part could have been played by any other actress, but she performs well in the role of the love interest. 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 rascal who aims to marry Duchess Sophie (Biel) for political gain. She was Eisenheim's childhood friend and now, 15 years later, his would-be lover. This romantic rivalry and Eisenheim's amazing illusions are investigated by Chief Inspector Uhl (Giamatti), who's under Leopold's command. Uhl is therefore not to be trusted as Eisenheim and Sophie draw closer to their inevitable reunion. The movie is enhanced by a score from composer Phillip Glass.



  • 20th Century Fox
  • 2010, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 49 min
  • Aspect Ratio:  1.85:1
  • English, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Discs: 2
  • Starring: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell, Jessica Biel
  • Directed by Neil Burger
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No


Originally this short story was written as a political criticism of the Monarchy, based on the scandalous incident where the bodies of Rudolf and his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera were found shot in a Royal hunting lodge. Perhaps it was a murder suicide which the Royal family kept from the public for many years. Edward Norton as Eisenheim is understated and brilliant and some of the sleight of hand tricks in the film were actually done by him. His practice shows as the illusions come off very well, indeed. Norton portrayals a perfect man of mystery. It begs the question, are these mere illusions or does Eisenheim possess supernatural power, controlling matter, energy, space and time itself? Giamatti is equally brilliant. You can read the conflicting thoughts going on in his mind just from watching his expressions. The ending is both surprising and believable. (Unlike another “magic” film that came out around the same time called “The Prestige“).


The film quality is a bit hard to judge as it was intentionally shot to appear “old”. Some scenes are washed out and enhanced film grain appears often, though none of this is really distracting. It actually gives the film a “period” feel. The picture is generally sharp with good contrast and natural flesh tones, though not quite reference quality. Dialog is clear and the surrounds play into some of the special effect “illusion” scenes. The musical score sounds marvelous and really draws you into the film.


All bonus material is found on disc 2 and include: audio commentary, making of the illusions, Jessica Beil's commentary and trailers.