The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

41° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

    The Illusionist

    There is no way to easily summarize the plot of The Illusionist or even to place it into a particular genre. Perhaps that is just what the movie industry really needs to stray away from the monotonous repetition of romantic comedies and low-budget horror flicks. It is obvious that most films today are eagerly striving to earn the attention of the Academy. Neil Burger has written and directed a masterpiece, a multifaceted gem of a story based on the human desire to suspend disbelief.

    The screen play is based on a short story written by Steven Milhauser. In the first hour of the movie, it does not seem far-fetched that the simplicity of the opening scenes could have originated from a few short pages of text. There is a common love story, thwarted by the fact that our main character’s young love is a duchess. There is a reunion of the pair after many years, and a jealous crowned prince of Vienna who plans to marry the aforementioned noble lady and use her in his ploy to overthrow his father’s rule and expand his empire.

    There was an air of disappointment in the theater as everyone seemed to settle in for a clich’eacute; battle of the classes, a skillful and compassionate peasant competing for a woman’s affections with an arrogant, violent dictator. Though the plot advantage of having a protagonist who is a skilled magician, whose skill transcends illusion and sneaks into the realm of the supernatural, takes its effect and the story is salvaged and becomes wonderfully complicated. It spins off into a murder mystery, a spiteful battle of wills between the crown prince and our hero, an underdog story as Vienna’s people stand by a magician who has given them hope for life after death, the great escape of a fugitive, and an ending that twists and shocks.

    There is something in this movie for everyone. To the delight of period film lovers, it takes place at the start of the nineteenth century, and of course to satisfy the hopeless romantic, there is a passionate, time-withstanding love. There is murder and magic, and if for nothing else, surely any viewer can find solace in an all-star cast.

    Edward Norton is faultless as the stern, nearly unapproachable and confident talent who is either powerful enough in sorcery or skillful enough in trickery to enter into a battle with Vienna‘s dangerous royal court. Paul Giamatti of Sideways, an award winning movie produced by the same team as The Illusionist, is the perfect plot facilitator, his character, an aspiring chief of police and mayor of Vienna, hovers between audience affection and hatred.

    Giamatti demonstrates the fine-tuned qualities of an accomplished actor in subtle but very effective body language and facial expression. And a surprising leading lady who rises to the occasion is Jessica Biel as Sophie von Teschen, whose elegance and composure in what could be called her second ever ‘grown-up’ role after starring alongside veteran actress Susan Sarandon in Elizabethtown, was as captivating as any magic act.

    Of course, many aspects of the movie prompt a skeptical twenty-first century audience to ignore their overpowering inclination to rationalize all things. However, in under a two hour runtime, this film could prompt anyone to leave logic at the theater door and partake in the mystery of illusionism, inspiring and renewing that childlike awe everyone has felt in the presence of magic. While still going fairly strong at the box office, The Illusionist has been open since mid-August, so catch it quickly before it too disappears.

    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Statesman

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Statesman

    Comments (0)

    All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *