The audience is silent. The curtain rises. And then, out walks the man called the master of the world’s mysteries. He removes his gloves and throws them in the air to soar as blackbirds to the roof. So enters Eisenheim, the Illusionist.
“The Illusionist” is enthralling, wrapped in its namesake, cinematics and story alike. Neil Burger directs a stellar cast led by Edward Norton playing Eisenheim, the great illusionist of Vienna. With him are Paul Giamatti, acting as narrator as the not-yet-entirely corrupt Chief Inspector Uhl; Jessica Biel as the beautiful Duchess Sophie von Teschen; and Rufus Sewell as the intelligent and ruthless Crown Prince Leopold, heir to the throne of the AustroHungarian Empire at the turn of the twentieth century.
The core and heart of this movie, however, is a love story between the duchess and the stage wizard, a match made utterly believable by the compatibility of the characters’ personalities. The amazing underlying theme is that when politics and illusion are stripped away, only love remains.
The visuals in this movie are stunning. The first of Eisenheim’s shows is complete with little deviances of gravity, butterflies aloft with disappearing handkerchiefs, and an orange tree that grows before the audience’s eyes. But these bends in nature’s laws are not seen as animation.
And so, when you witness the illusionist’s feats, you don’t think, What magnificent effects! Instead, you ponder how Eisenheim could have done it. This is a modern movie. To not think of effects in this age when huge cinematic hordes, creatures like Gollum and the world of motion capture have become nearly commonplace is fabulous to behold. It is a revival of the lost concept of movie magic at its finest.
So, with that, and everything else that makes this movie superb, sit back and join the audience of Eisenheim, the Illusionist, and be amazed as you see him work his greatest trick, which is proving that nothing is what it appears to be.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.