The Illusionist

I was browsing through Blockbuster’s mighty hall of new releases, looking for my next selection from my complimentary Blockbuster.com membership, when I saw a film I’ve never heard of, taking up a significant amount of shelving. Not only does it have a five foot section spanning floor to ceiling, but it is only permitted to be rented for 2-days. I knew it had to be some kind of sensational rental.

The film is a mystery/suspense/thriller set in 19th Century Austria. It stars Ed Norton from Fight Club, Rufus Sewell, who played the villain in Knight’s Tale, and Jessica Biel, who seems to suffer from uncommon hotness. The film was casted very well. Every actor was able to pull of the 19th Century Austrian persona required by the setting. Sewell did remarkably well with this role.

Norton plays Eisenheim, a magician from a working class family who becomes involved with Biel’s character who happens to be a duchess and is engaged to the ruthless Crown Prince Leopold, played by Sewell. A contest of wills ensues between the Prince and Eisenheim, the former using political power and the latter using his power of illusion; the contest turns deadly when the Prince’s ambitions are threatened.

I don’t want to give away too much, but it suffices to say that this film was full of surprises.

The film has this sort of old film quality. It’s a nice touch and not too intrusive, nothing like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The musical score also helps complete the old world feel of the film.

There are some very cool displays of David Copperfield style magic and a healthy portion of intrigue. I can’t say I was blown away by the ending, but it was masterfully rendered. Whether or not you have a trial Blockbuster.com membership, this film is definitly worth your while. I’d highly recommend it.

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