Jun 172019

For me, The Illusionist is a better film than The Prestige if only very slightly, but because both films came out the same year, it has been in many ways overshadowed.



The Illusionist

Genre(s): Drama, Romance, Suspense
MVD Visual | PG13 – 109 min. – $24.95 | June 25, 2019

Date Published: 06/17/2019 | Author: The Movieman

Directed by: Neil Burger

Writer(s): Steven Mullhauser (short story “Eisenheim the Illusionist”); Neil Burger (screenplay)
Cast: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Theatrical Trailer

Slip Cover: No
Digital Copy: No
Formats Included: Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), English (PCM 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.78
Subtitles: English SDH
Disc Size: 35.47 GB
Total Bitrate: 40.05 Mbps
Codecs: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A

MVD Visual provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.

THE MOVIE — 4.5/5

Note: This portion was copied over from my 2010 Fox Blu-ray review, hence the dated references, however my thoughts on the film remains the same.

Plot Synopsis: The acclaimed illusionist Eisenheim (EDWARD NORTON) has not only captured the imaginations of all of Vienna, but also the interest of the ambitious Crown Prince Leopold (RUFUS SEWELL). But when Leopold’s new fiancée (JESSICA BIEL) rekindles a childhood fascination  with Eisenheim, the Prince’s interest evolves into obsession… and suddenly the city’s Chief Inspector (PAUL GIAMATTI) finds himself investigating a shocking crime. But even as the Inspector engages him in a dramatic challenge of wills, Eisenheim prepares for his most impressive illusion yet.

“Perhaps there’s truth in this illusion.”

I won’t go into detail about the plot outside of the above synopsis, but I will say although it doesn’t rise to the twist of The Sixth Sense or The Prestige, but The Illusionist is one of the best movies of 2006.

Writer/director Neil Berger sets up great atmosphere from the beginning showing Eisenheim in a packed theater, sitting on a chair, channeling something. Berger utilizes a golden glow in each scene mixed with rich and beautiful sets and great performances from Norton, Giamatti and Sewell (not to say Biel wasn’t good, but her role was smaller). Early on, Berger uses a hand-cranked (like) style for Eisenheim’s childhood days, giving it an interesting flair that fits right in with the rest of the movie. Some might find it overly stylized but I feel it fits in with the story and gives it an extra depth that helps the audience along to the conclusion.

As a sophomore effort, Berger is off to an impressive start to his career and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes next. He may not have the finesse or refinement of young directors like Christopher Nolan, however I am intrigued to see what he’ll do next.

Edward Norton has often been called a chameleon and after 10 years, Norton has proven to be one of the best actors of this generation; the new Robert De Niro or Al Pacino if you will. Norton consistently gives amazing performances even in some of his less artsy films like The Score or The Italian Job. Here, he gives an unassuming performance, one that really isn’t memorable per se, but still one that is better than anything 90% of the acting community could do. Eisenheim isn’t all that well fleshed out as a character, but because of its Norton, he pulls in the audience just as a real audience for the time would watching the magic.

In their supporting roles, Paul Giamatti (in a role different what he’s done of late), Jessica Biel and Rufus Sewell (despite being typecast as a raving, violent villain), all feed on Norton’s charisma and they equally pull their weight in roles that, again, aren’t as three-dimensional as I like from stories. Nevertheless, given the story, the illusion or magic of this script, all is forgivable for the final payoff.

If there’s one flaw, it’s a minor one with the score. Veteran composer Philip Glass’s musical cues are fine and work with the story, but from opening credits to the end, I had the feeling I’ve heard before. Nothing about it is original nor that great. That said, this is a minor gripe from someone who enjoys (and buys) scores.

The Illusionist isn’t one of those great movies on par with The Godfather or even Lost in Translation (in my book), but it still has that finale that makes it all worthwhile. It doesn’t stand alongside Sixth Sense (and probably won’t carry that kind of cultural weight), yet I can’t help to have fallen in love with this movie.



The original Fox release did not port over the features from the DVD review, so it’s nice to see this MVD Visual release, through their Marquee Collection line, are now on the Blu-ray disc. Included is an Audio Commentary with Screenwriter/Director Neil Jordan, The Making of The Illusionist (3:59; SD) and Jessica Biel on The Illusionist (1:29; SD) featurettes and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:30; SD).


VIDEO – 4.0/5

MVD Visual releases The Illusionist onto Blu-ray shown with a 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio and since there’s nothing on the back cover saying so, I’m guessing this is the same transfer from the original Blu-ray. But even so, this still does look good with sharp detail and stark black levels. This was never a bright looking movie with somewhat of a copper glaze over the picture throughout where even daylight scenes look dark. In any case, it looks clean with no noticeable artifacting, aliasing or other flaws.

AUDIO – 3.75/5

The included DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is standard and my thoughts pretty much match up with my original 2010 review: The track does its job well enough to my ears. The movie doesn’t have a whole lot of action and is propelled more by Philip Glass’ score than anything else. Dialogue levels, though, sound fairly clear while ambient noises make use of the back channels.


OVERALL – 4.25/5

For me, The Illusionist is a better film than The Prestige if only very slightly, but because both films came out the same year, it has been in many ways overshadowed. The Blu-ray features solid audio and video and thankfully the bonus material this go around were placed on the disc.




Check out some more 1080p screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.

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