Everything about this movie worked, and I am not exaggerating when I say that you should make it a priority to see it as soon as possible.
Ed Norton stars as an illusionist, a man who makes the seemingly impossible possible. Jessica Biel is a duchess and childhood love interest who currently finds herself locked into an undesirable relationship with a crown prince. When the two happen across one another during one of Norton’s shows, the real conflict of this story begins. How can they get away from the murderous crown prince and start a life together?
The always-superb Paul Giamatti plays the police inspector who is reluctantly the crown prince’s lackey and responsible for bringing down Ed Norton’s character after Norton makes the crown prince look like a fool in a variety of ways.
I believe Ed Norton to be one of the world’s most underrated actors and he truly shines in this film. He exudes confidence and genius just millimeters below a humble and patient exterior, and even when his story seems to be at an all-time low, in the back of your mind you still have perfect faith that he will win out in the end.
Jessica Biel’s character, sadly, could have been played by anyone and while she is a true beauty, I don’t feel she brought anything original to the table. Of course, when you’re playing opposite Norton and Giamatti, it’s hard to shine. I do respect her decision to take part in such a potentially intimating film. Thank goodness she’s moving way from films like Blade: Trinity and Stealth.
Speaking of Giamatti, he is beyond fantastic. Like Norton, the audience senses so much of who his character truly is with his subtle facial expressions, sighs, and grunts. Giamatti does his best acting without uttering a single line, and the scenes with both he and Norton together were a true joy to behold.
Set in Vienna around the time when the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, the film’s costumes and cinematography are mesmerizing and inspiring. Some people feel the story has supernatural elements, but I believe Norton’s character was such a master illusionist that everything he did had a very scientific explanation, though some of you may be bothered by the fact that, like any good magician, his secrets remain largely unrevealed. For me, the story became a bit predictable in the last third of the film, but I was more than able to cast that aside and simply enjoy a riveting and magical experience.
Next time you rent or buy a DVD, I suggest you put this one on the top of your list.