The Illusionist Review
Allow me to wave my wand and make all of the other summer "blockbusters" disappear… for The Illusionist tops them all!
Edward Norton plays the enigmatic magician who bewitches large audiences and Jessica Biel‘s character alike. His acting is spot on but perhaps most impressive is that Norton actually did all of his own sleight of hand tricks (including rolling a ball around on his hand à la David Bowie in The Labyrinth–though David Bowie had a stunt magician do that for him). Director Neil Burger said, "The first week of filming, we were in a theater with about 350 extras in period dress for the stage performance scenes, and Edward performed a trick he had learned—and he fooled everyone in the theater, and all of us behind the camera. And it wasn’t a fluke, because later, during a different scene, where he had to produce something out of thin air, he got genuine reactions. Even Jessica and Rufus [Sewell] came up to him afterwards and asked, ‘How did you do that?!?’"
Speaking of Jessica Biel, who knew she could look so believable as an 18th century Viennese countess? Not being a fan of 7th Heaven at all, I was skeptical about the casting decision and pleasantly surprised by the quiet and assured performance, without any terrible overacting, that she gave.
Paul Giamatti’s fanboy-ish inspector added to the clever bits of situational and character humor scattered throughout the film. They helped liven up the sometimes moody (but very beautiful) atmosphere of the film without distracting from the main plot, a "tragic" love story really suited to the rich green and old gold settings and swelling Phillip Glass soundtrack.
With so much style, such pretty people, and such cool tricks (look out for the orange tree!), The Illusionist delivers more than you’d expect from a typical summer movie.
TIDBIT :: Norton studied a year behind Giamatti at Yale.