The Illusionist

[Amazon Link] [4.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

A very pleasant surprise. This movie got decent reviews from the critics; I liked it even better than they did.

The film's setting is Eastern Europe in the early 1900's. The aristocracy is beginning to decay and crumble. Little aristocrat Sophie and little son-of-a-furniture-maker Edward find themselves falling in love; once Sophie's family finds out, she's spirited away, and Edward moves on to become, after many years, Eisenheim, master of illusion. And then they meet again, with Sophie about to become engaged to a murderous slimeball prince-in-waiting.

The acting is top-notch, as expected from Edward Norton (as Eisenheim) and Paul Giamatti as the ambivalently corrupt policeman who loves magic, but is tasked with eliminating Eisenheim. Playing Sophie is Jessica Biel (to whom I always refer as "that nice Jessica Biel", ever since she was on Seventh Heaven), and she steps up to go toe-to-toe with these heavy hitters, a pleasant surprise.

The movie is deliberately old-fashioned—when was the last time you saw an iris-to-black transition, for example? The magic is astounding (the great Ricky Jay was an advisor on the film). All in all, a lot of fun to watch.

Last Modified 2012-10-21 6:44 AM EDT