Sunday, 12 October 2008


Just as the same year's THE PRESTIGE was much cleverer than I initially thought it was, THE ILLUSIONIST is never really as clever as it thinks it is and although the film looks absolutely gorgeous and is very well acted by the leads (I echo everybody else's praise for Paul Giamatti as the increasingly baffled and frustrated police inspector) it has a transparent plot which you could drive a bus through without killing anybody. Edward Norton plays a young man who in his youth had a childhood romance with a young girl of noble birth (Jessica Biel). They are parted and he goes off only to return years later as a successful stage illusionist. They meet again only for his to find that she is betrothed to the sadistic crown prince. They rekindle their affair and when she tries to break off her engagement she is murdered by the prince. Throughout all this Norton is shadowed by a detective who is obsessed by the secret of the illusions. When Norton sets out to prove the prince is a murderer the detective is torn by his responsibility to protect the Royal Family and his moral duty to uncover the truth. What initially seems to be a clever plot begins, sadly, to unravel, when looked at too closely. I will only pick out one instance in which we are led to believe that the fiancee of the crown prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire could be murdered and, presumably buried, without ever being examined by the Royal physicians or the designated Royal undertakers ? I don't think so. I was never taken in by the plot devised by Norton's character for a second and saw it coming very early on. Another weakness of the film is that we are never really let in on the mysteries of the illusions (as we were in THE PRESTIGE which despite its trickery played a pretty straight hand once you understood the rules of the game). It is all very well to show us that Norton can produce wonderful illusions but when a very major plot point depends on him disappearing in front of a full audience while surrounded by police we need some indication of how he makes his escape. I don't wish to be too hard on the film because on the whole I enjoyed it immensely and wouldn't want to put people off seeing it. It will be interesting to see what else director Neil Burger has up his sleeve. Rating ***

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

I too found myself wanting to like it more than I actually did. And I couldn't shake the nagging thought that, the entire time I was watching the film, I would much rather be watching a film version of CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL.