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Get Out More......................Film Review

THE ILLUSIONIST (PG)

03-03-2007

Neil Burger's tale of love, politics and intrigue opens in yer multiplexes this weekend. Based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Millhauser, it stars Fight Club bloke Ed Norton. But did it cast a spell on Dionne McCarthy?

The film has been receiving mixed reviews, the main criticism being a lack of explosive action and the illusions appearing to be disappointingly simple, but it was the simplicity of the that for me made it so compelling.

Set in turn of the century Vienna, Norton plays Edward, a working class boy who is forced to leave the city when his relationship with Sophie, the daughter of an influential aristocrat, is exposed.

Fifteen years on Edward returns as ‘Eisenheim the Illusionist', working in small theatres and mesmerising audiences with his astounding illusions and sleight-of-hand mastery.

He soon develops a cult following which attracts the unwanted attentions of the powerful and underhand Crown Prince Leopold (stereotypically cast villain Rufus Sewell), who just so happens to be engagedto Edward's childhood love.

Jealous and determined to demystify Eisenheim's illusions,Leopold assigns seemingly corrupt Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) to follow his every move. Meanwhile Eisenheim rekindles his affair with Sophie and their own plans to debunk Leopold are set in motion.

Norton, dubbed the new De Niro following the acclaim of American History X and Fight Club, is one of the most impressive method actors of his generation. As Eisenheim he exudes a fierce intensity and profound intelligence and even in his silences we are left wondering what this man is thinking.

He is at times perhaps too cold and as the romantic lead might have shown a little more emotion, but perhaps this would have betrayed the character.

Jessica Biel is beautiful and refined as Sophie but also exudes a modest intelligence and defiance making hers and Eisenheims connection believable.

Paul Giamatti was the ‘stand out' as Inspector Uhl, and his understated performance is in keeping with the simplistic style of Burger's direction. Giamatti creates a complex character in Uhl and his personal battle to further his career whilst also trying to retain some professional and personal integrity is a compelling sub text.

The film doesn't use flamboyant effects but has a lovely, old-world feel. There are some beautiful, golden-tinged images which look like an old photograph and add to the romance of Vienna and Eisenheim and Sophie's blossoming relation.

The Schwarzenegger fans out there will probably want to give it a miss but it's recommended for anyone who still appreciates the art of cinema.

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