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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Missed It: The Illusionist Review

Hello, flock! Thanks for checking out another Missed It review. I've been reading a lot this week, but sometimes, Netflix teases me with old releases I could never find in stores. This was one of them. Tonight, we have The Illusionist, released in 2006, featuring Edward Norton, Rufus Sewell (he's following me, I swear) and Paul Giamatti.

Summary: The Illusionist is a movie about a woo-woo magician who may or may not have real magical powers. He falls in love above his station and causes some trouble. When the lady-love is revealed to be the darling of both the magician, Eisenheim, and crown prince of Vienna, shit hits the proverbial fan. There is a murder and a growly Chief Inspector of awesome on the case, and the rest of the film is just delicate suspense and pretty cinematography.

Pros: Once again, Rufus Sewell from Dark City plays a villain. His angry intensity and subdued portrayal of a man on the edge is increasingly interesting as the film goes on. He does wear the "goddamnit, I suffer fools not gladly" facial expression far too often, though. If you're not familiar with it, picture an angry but very patient sheep and splice in a little wolf. He gets the "goddamnit" look on his face so often, I was tempted to start taking a drink every time he gave old Eisenheim the Sewell Method Glare of Doom. Unlike A Knight's Tale, though, he was at least paying attention for this one and was actually somewhat scary.

Paul Giamatti does a fine job as Chief Inspector. I have a liking for Giamatti and his whole-hearted performances, and this performance was really excellent. It's fun to watch him sleuth out the murderer, even if he's far more Dr. Watson than Holmes. I often wished I could transport him to a better film, but at least he doesn't seem like a total hapless mook. He even gets to growl at people instead of whinge, and wears a nice suit in this movie!

Also it has this locket in it:

Here's an action shot that should explain my squealing noises.

Thanks to Jim, the creator of these wicked awesome movie-realistic lockets, for letting me use his image and the site. Buy one of these for your partner and he/she/it will think you're the coolest boyfriend/girlfriend ever, srsly.

The focus on jewellery appealed to this little magpie for sure. Am I shallow for enjoying the locket far more than I enjoyed the heroine who was wearing it? Yes? Well, anyway, it's a beautiful locket, and I'm going to go buy one now.

Cons: the love interest, Sophy, is a bland girl who just isn't interesting or even noticeable enough to carry the film. She has a mildly outspoken personality, sort of, and...actually, I can't think of any defining traits of her personality other than 'locket' and 'subdued grey dress with lots of buttons'. And as well,


When she died, I gave approximately one third of a shit, not even half. Not good, movie.


The wavering accents are also a minus, and they go up and down like a hooker working two waterbeds. Alas, Eisenheim is very flat. He lacks the magnetism of the two magicians in The Prestige and is far too reserved. His performance was praised, but ot's too far off the 'understated' side of the curve for my taste, and far less than angry sheep Sewell and sheepdog Giamatti.

My biggest gripe involves the mystical approach to magic. It's very annoying to anyone who enjoys either stage magic or proper fantasy settings. Nothing is explained and the "it's only a trick" thing is pretty flimsy. If you are going to have a "speculations on the nature of reality" film, a less drowsy pace and actually trying to convice the audience that science was possibly involved is necessary. Casting your rationalist scientist as the villain is pretty dull. As enjoyable as it is to watch Sewell get his nuts in a knot over Norton's tricks, the tepid pace sucks the life out of it. (Also, blurry and tepid sex scene for the lose.) There is another easter egg, though; the ginger actor from Moulin Rouge shows up as a sidekick. It is as though they are giving us a buffet option with overactors.

Final prognosis: 6 out of 10 for making me fidgety and mumble 'GET ON WITH IT' under my breath. Worth a watch for the aesthetic value and fine muscial score. I liked the twist at the end, much as it was sort of predictable, but the rest of the film is a trial of patience at times, However, its potential for drinking games gives it far more interest for the future.

That was two reviews put out in a single night! Aren't you some lucky people. Follow me on Twitter at SciFiMagpie or be square. And failing that, check out Jim's site; he's extremely friendly. See you soon!

1 comment:

  1. I saw this movie several years ago, and I thought it was pretty good. The slow pace didn't bother me, nor did the whole magic VS. science thing. In fact, I always just assumed without thinking that there was nothing magical about Eisenheim and that he was merely a very clever magician, but you raise an interesting point that he MAY have had magical powers. But I don't think it was necessary for the movie to give us a clear answer on that.

    Sometimes, I think it can actually be a good thing when a question is left unanswered, because then it leaves it up in the air for the audience to make up their own mind and figure it out on their own. Maybe that was the angle the film-makers were going for, but I still think Eisenheim was meant to simply be a very clever magician with no actual powers.

    Anyway, I'd probably give the movie a 7 or an 8 out of 10, but as I said, it's been several years since I've seen it.


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