Reviews

The Illusionist

3

Forget The Prestige for a moment. Yes, both it and The Illusionist are movies about turn-of-the-century magicians, but that’s as far as the similarity goes. Christopher Nolan’s showstopper was a sprawling trip to the Twilight Zone – a big-budget bonanza with a shazam ending. Neil Burger’s film is more like close-up magic – precise, elegant, mildly baffling.

Achieving more by doing less, Edward Norton is mesmerising as the conjurer of the title, but it’s to Burger’s credit that the film doesn’t lose its grip when he’s not centre stage. Rufus Sewell, love interest Jessica Biel and especially Paul Giamatti (as the Vienna police chief charged by Sewell’s jealous and paranoid prince with discovering Norton’s trade secrets) are all given their chance to shine in a plot that sweeps confidently through a world of intrigue and menace. When even the faux-Germanic accents everyone adopts don’t distract (well, not too much), you know you’re onto a winner.

The surprise thrown up by the Making Of featurette (which is largely a 15-minute puff-piece) is that most of the film’s grand illusions are based on bona fide tricks. It’s the kind of titbit that leaves you hankering for a more detailed look behind the scenes and even though Burger’s commentary is otherwise candid, it only partly provides answers about the magic. Ho hum... At least the sparseness of extras leaves you more time to practise the tricks explained on the disc’s Easter Egg. Just place the cursor to the left of the words ‘Play Movie’ on the main menu and click when an icon lights up. Voila! You’ll be amusing people in pubs with vanishing coins for years…

 

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