“Everything you have seen here has been an illusion.”
There was a time when The Illusionist came out on DVD that my mom and one of my brothers watched this movie all the time. I always happened to come in on the same parts and never fully understood what the movie was about. They told me some of the story based off the parts I had seen but what they told me was never enough. Six years after The Illusionist was released I have finally sat through the whole movie. I greatly enjoyed movie from beginning to end.
The story of The Illusionist takes place in the late 1800s in Austria. It begins with the arrest of a man named Eisenheim (Edward Norton). The arresting officer, Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) is speaking with Crown Prince Leopold. The story from here until the last few minutes of the movie is told from Uhl’s perspective at this time.
Uhl tells Leopold what is known about Eisenheim. His name had been Edward and was the son of a cabinet maker. Edward had met an old magician on the side of a road when he was younger which lead him to become a magician himself. He practiced all the time even out in the street where he catches the eye of Sophie a local duchess. The two become great friends. Her family does not approve of her being friends with a peasant but Sophie sneaks out anyway whenever she can. They plan to run away together. Their plan comes to nothing when guards come looking for Sophie and take her away. For the next fifteen years Edward spends his time traveling the world.
Edward comes back as Eisenheim- The Illusionist. His first show creates so much his next few performances are sold out. At his first performance is Uhl. Uhl becomes fascinated with an illusion Eisenheim did that he returns to the theater with some other police officers to inspect the trick and also to tell the illusionist that the prince will be coming to the performance that night. Eisenheim asks for someone to come up on stage after he had just talked about death and the soul. The prince stands up and then points to a woman next to him. When the woman walks onto the stage Eisenheim quickly recognizes her as Sophie.
Sophie is heavily watched by Leopold claiming it is for her protection. She sees Eisenheim the next day and says she remembers who he is. Sophie takes out the locket he had for her when they were younger and still has his photograph inside it.
Eisenheim is asked to the palace for a special performance. Leopold wants everything explained he does not like being tricked. Eisenheim asks Leopold for his sword and does a trick that is like the Sword and the Stone. He places the sword on its tip. No one can pull the sword from the floor it is as if it is being kept down by magnets. Leopold tries to pull it up and is mocked by some men in the audience. Furious and humiliated the prince wants Eisenheim shut down.
Sophie goes to Eisenheim’s house that night. They speak of running away together and know that she could never do so. She could only run away if she was dead.
After this night, news gets out that the prince could have been involved in a murder. He had been before when he his temper got the best of him. The whole town speaks nothing of this murder and wants answers. Eisenheim has been shut down but finds a way to come back with an illusion so mysterious and somewhat terrifying the police are ordered to arrest him. He does the trick again this time with the prince in the audience. The prince and the audience are shocked and stunned.
The Illusionist came out around the same time as The Prestige. The Prestige won out in the contest of what-was-the-better-magic-themed-movie contest at the box office. I have yet to see The Prestige (actually I did see it but I do not remember a thing from it since I saw it so long ago). My brother Anthony is obsessed with The Prestige he says it is one of those movies you can watch over and over again and still find new things. Anyway, The Illusionist has a very good story. It almost reminds me of the TV show Leverage (you will get it if you know the show). The cast was alright I am not a huge fan of Jessica Biel I think she is not a very good actress. Edward Norton was good but he does not impress too much.
The Illusionist is interesting to watch because you try to think how a trick like the ones Eisenheim performs could have been done in real life in the late 1800s. I know most of the tricks were done with CGI but it is fun to try to figure out how they could actually have been done.