Directed by: Neil Burger | 110 minutes | drama, adventure, romance, fantasy | Actors: Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aaron Johnson, Brian Caspe, Tom Fischer, Eddic Marsan, Erich Redman, Ellen Savaria, Jake Wood
The American production “The Illusionist” is rather difficult to characterize. She combines different genres (drama, romance, adventure, thriller, fantasy and costume film), without one clearly predominating. Fortunately, these mixed genres do not get in each other’s way and could therefore result in an interesting film; especially when you take a look at the cast and know that Philip Glass is responsible for the music.
So “The Illusionist” did not become a bad film. The film is cared for in every respect: from acting to design to dialogues, everything exudes pure craftsmanship. The streets of Prague, which are supposed to represent the streets of 19th century Vienna, are picturesque as ever, the story is quite original and the pulsating music of Philip Glass really boosts things up. The way in which director Burger shows the Eisenheim shows is particularly clever. Although the tricks of the illusionist are often nothing special, you still experience the amazement of the 19th century audience.
The fact that “The Illusionist” ultimately did not become a real high-flyer has everything to do with the plot. Although original, the story is a bit too thin to be fascinating for two hours. In addition, the speed of the film is extremely slow, which sometimes makes it difficult to stay focused.
The main flaw of “The Illusionist”, however, is the denouement. In this case it is understandable that in the end a rabbit has to be pulled out of the top hat, but from the hat of a master magician and not that of a tired screenwriter. Although the ending is not even impossible, strictly speaking, it appeals too much to the gullibility of the spectator. The finale ensures that the film, which previously tipped elegantly between reality and fantasy, suddenly becomes completely unbelievable. Moreover, the unraveling of the mystery is presented through a lightning-fast editing, which clashes enormously with the 19th century tempo of before. Perhaps the screenwriters hoped to disguise the many improbabilities, but they did not succeed.
Thus “The Illusionist” has become a nice film, which unfortunately wants to do one trick too many. Good enough for a modest round of applause, but we don’t break the audience down for this.