So last night we watched The Illusionist, in which the famous magician Tyler Durden (Edward Norton) plays tricks on John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) in an attempt to steal away his putative fiancee, Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel), all the while being investigated by the persistent Inspector Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti).
Okay, so none of those characters are actually the ones that are in this film, but that should give you some idea of how twisty this movie is. Nothing is what it seems, except for the stuff that’s exactly what it seems; it’s up to the viewer to figure out which is which. Edward Norton is an illusionist in love with a woman waaaay above his station in life, Jessica Biel is some sort of Hungarian noblewoman, Rufus Sewell is a crown prince who wants to use Biel to line up Hungarian support, and Paul Giamatti is an inspector who owes his position to Sewell but is fascinated by Norton’s magic. I won’t give away any plot details, except to say that Rollie Tyler has got nothing on Eisenheim the Illusionist.
Despite being called The Illusionist, this film might as well be called The Inspector, because Paul Giamatti’s character is actually the most central figure. This is a good thing, because he’s easily the most interesting person in the movie. The actors all do fine jobs, especially (no surprise) Giamatti and Norton. You could put these two in a movie where all they do is make faces at each other and it would probably be riveting. (Okay, I will admit that I had a little bit of trouble accepting Jessica Biel as a duchess; but she didn’t embarrass herself at all playing opposite three heavyweights, and she certainly looks good in period garb.)
My wife stayed awake for the entire movie. In one sitting. Starting at 8:30pm, which is pretty close to when she falls asleep even when we’re not watching television. This could well make The Illusionist the top-rated film of all time, or at least, since I started posting reviews …