By Ryan Parsons | Image property of Yari Film Group.
Late August and early September is the period best known for the most generic films. It happens every year. Films targeted at the summer audience, but don’t have the confidence to take on the bigger blockbusters mid-season, wait until this period to find a weekend to open to. Hence films like Invincible.
For the weekend of September 1st, however, I was warned of two possible films willing to break the mold – Crank and The Illusionist. Well, Fred already saw Crank (review here) so I figured I’d take the other road.
During the opening credits of The Illusionist I knew I was watching something truly unique.
The Illusionist Review
The first thing The Illusionist does is establish that even the shortest of stories can make impressive films. Now, I am not saying that the film’s running time was short, as it wasn’t. Though the story does give us a brief introduction into the history between characters Eisenheim – played wonderfully by Edward Norton -- and Sophie – a surprisingly strong role from Jessica Biel -- the real girth of the story only covers a week, or is it a month? It is hard to say, as time was not really much of an issue, but the story lies on a single event between very few people. Because of this, director Neil Burger was able to take his time and show an amazing amount of patience as he crafts every single detail into the story.
Yes, the pacing in The Illusionist rests on the lower gear. But that should matter not, as this same pacing is what draws not only the characters but the audience into the illusion taking place.
Everything in this film works. The cast, the characters, the cinematography and, most importantly, the story. You can’t help but love Giamatti’s Chief Inspector Uhl, even though he is on the side of the evil Crown Prince Leopold for most of the film. All Rufus Sewell must do is offer a questioning stare and you can feel the evil surrounding his character. Or is he that evil?
I can’t think of a single complaint I have of this film and, instead, applaud it for some cool visuals and a well-rounded story. Who knows, The Illusionist could kick off the ‘short story’ genre in no time. If you are looking for something generic and plain, then do not see this film. If you want to finish a theatre showing with a ‘Bravo,’ The Illusionist is your best bet.