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Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan ... see more see more... , Jake Wood , Tom Fisher , Karl Johnson , Aaron Taylor-Johnson , Eleanor Tomlinson , Brian Caspe , Dusan Fager

A supernaturally talented magician attempts to undermine the rigid social structure of turn-of-the-century Vienna by using his powers to win the love of his upper-class, childhood sweetheart in direct... read more read more...or Neil Burger's cinematic adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser's short story. Though the ill-fated childhood romance between cabinetmaker's son Eisenheim (Edward Norton) and upper-class Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel) eventually resulted in the heartbroken young man leaving Austria to explore the world, his dreams of one day reuniting with the beautiful duchess never faded. Upon returning to Vienna 15 years later as a talented and renowned illusionist, Eisenheim's hopes of a reunion seem dashed when he learns that Sophie is currently engaged to the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). As the tensions between the Eisenheim and Leopold elevate, urbane Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) finds his sympathy toward Eisenheim growing, despite his formal obligations to the powerful prince. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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83% liked it

415,359 ratings


74% liked it

187 critics

PG-13, 1 hr. 49 min.

Directed by: Neil Burger

Release Date: August 18, 2006

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DVD Release Date: January 9, 2007

Stats: 34,291 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (34,291)

  • May 1, 2007
    Presto... Sucko!

    This was weird - a pretty bad movie with a half-decent ending.

    Ed Norton was flat and his accent was laughable. Paul Giamatti carried this flick but... alas.
  • November 12, 2013
  • September 16, 2013
    Similar, but ultimately different from The Prestige, this is a moody and gorgeous romantic drama with magical overtones.

    Set near the end of the 19th Century in Vienna, this is a fictional tale based on a short story that inserts itself into some fictionalized retellings of actu... read moreal events.

    Eisenheim is an illusionist who specializes in some acts that border on the supernatural. He captures the imagination, then ire of Crown Prince Leopold when he makes a move on Leopold's lady, the Duchess Sophie von Teschen- a woman whom Eisenheim tried to romance when they were younger, but was foiled due to her being of a far higher social standing.

    Eisenheim's renewed efforts also attract the attention of Leopold's chief inspector Uhl, but due to events I won't discuss here due to spoilers, he finds his loyalties shifting the more he investigates Eisenheim and his doings.

    Shot with a unique filter, this comes off like a relic from the past. It feels like an old-timey picture, and I friggin' loved that. It gives the film some unique sensibilities, and shows a great level of care and attention to detail. Yes, the film inserts fiction into actual events, but I didn't have much of a problem with it, and thought it worked quite nicely. Besides a great look, the film has excellent costumes and period details, and the score by Philip Glass is haunting and beautiful.

    The film is about magic, but it's more or less a classic story of star crossed lovers that uses magic as a plot device. I was fine with this. Yes, there are some typical trappings of films with this subject matter, but I never felt cheated, or lost.

    Edward Norton is great as Eisenheim, Paul Giamatti is fun as the obsessively determined Uhl, and Rufus Sewell is strong as Leopold. He kinda reminded me of Jude Law, too, which is cool. The only real weak link here is Jessica Biel as Sophie. Yes she's gorgeous, but while she's not totally awful, she seemed like she was acting in a school play, and it all felt kinda flat and lifeless.

    Her aside, this is a quite engaging and captivating film. Give it a look.
  • June 16, 2012
    what if they made a twilight zone episode as long as a movie, and then didn't tell you that that's what it was...then you would have this movie: mysterious, romantic, childlike and wondrous. a not-too-chick-flick chick flick. cloaked in the velvet musical tapestry of Philip Glas... read mores, and the excellent performances of all involved.
  • May 11, 2012
    Its funny, you don't see any films about magicians then all of a sudden two pop up in the same year, how does that work? We had the same deal with 'Dante's Peak' and 'Volcano' also 'Armageddon' and 'Deep Impact'...weird huh.

    Anyhow this magic show is period set as is 'The Presti... read morege' only this time we are in Vienna at the turn of the century. The plot is a mixture of a love story, a who dunnit? and magic all entwined within the rich lavish world of Austrian royalty.

    The film simply popped up out of nowhere and my first impression was a cheap low budget equal to 'The Prestige' which was quite a big hit, I was amazed when it turned out to be such a rewarding film. The cast are all excellent here and fit beautifully into this decadent setting, Norton, Sewell, Giamatti, Biel and Marsan, all brilliant, what more can I say. I probably enjoyed Sewell as 'Prince Leopold' the most with his unhinged delicate state, jealousy and fury in his eyes as he loses the plot.

    The plot is intriguing but does seem to do a 'Usual Suspects' spin towards the end, your average twist which you can sense was coming but fun to watch none the less. The film is a joy to watch simply down to the lovely work on sets, costumes, location and the magic tricks of which the main ones are assisted with cgi methinks which is a shame but still mysterious.

    I guess the whole film or story is suppose to be one big magic trick or illusion really, one big puff of hocus pocus as the main lead wins the day and his love in a swirling mist of deception. Visually stunning, realistic? yes, not bad a tall...I can taste the strudel, superbly well performed and very enjoyable but maybe a little simpler than it was meant to be. 
  • March 9, 2012
    A patient movie that rewards viewers with an interesting mix of murder, mystery, and magic all in one. It's been a while since I've seen this movie but as I could remember from it, its a completely different beast compared to "The Prestige", but yet almost as entertaining.
  • November 4, 2011

    This film gets better every time I watch it. At the time of it's release it was compared so much with The Prestige (and vice versa) that I don't feel I judged this as a film in it's own right.

    Norton plays slick, intelligent and mysterious and gives yet another solid... read more performance, Paul Giamatti must get a mention here though, he stood out in the film and played his role to perfection.

    The thought and details that have gone into the plot and to then reach, (what I consider) to be one of the best non guessable twists at the end makes this film seem more powerful with every watch.
  • November 1, 2011
    This one was hampered by the fact that it came out about the same time as The Prestige, another period piece built around the troublesome world of prestidigitation. Both are entertaining but formulaic and rather forgettable.
  • October 8, 2011
    I would probably have been a lot more impressed by The Illusionist if I had seen it before I saw The Prestige. I had a taste for really intricately plotted fare about duelling magicians, which is a mistake to expect from this particular work: it's a love story about a magician pu... read moreshed to the edges of his ability by his demanding public. It's a strange and engaging story, but again, Nolan's film gave me a taste for something else, and I was a little disappointed that I didn't get it.
  • August 14, 2011
    One of two magic-themed films from 2006, "The Illusionist" is easily less exciting than its counterpart, Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige". Though well-acted and watchable for its length, the film is hardly interesting until its brief, semi-unexpected conclusion. Relying on simi... read morelar plot devices as Nolan's film, this one ultimately is the lesser of the two due its comparative lack of character depth and unengaging storyline.

Critic Reviews

Bob Mondello
October 18, 2008
Bob Mondello,

The line between truth and illusion is blurred so persuasively that for a moment or two, you may even believe that a romantic costume drama could stand up to all those special-effects blockbusters in ... Full Review

Nick Funnell
February 28, 2007
Nick Funnell, Time Out

With exquisite performances (Giamatti's, in particular), it leaves you thrillingly hovering, happily uncommitted to any one interpretation. Full Review

Joshua Rothkopf
February 3, 2007
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

You may be temporarily beguiled, but not fooled. Full Review

Stanley Kauffmann
October 26, 2006
Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

What (director Neil) Burger and his colleagues have done is to entrance us with a richly acted, beautifully produced story.

Steven Rea
September 1, 2006
Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

Conjures up a world of mystery, romance and suspense.

Robert Denerstein
September 1, 2006
Robert Denerstein, Denver Rocky Mountain News

The story may be less than credible, but the performances are mostly good, and Giamatti makes an especially strong showing.

Michael Booth
September 1, 2006
Michael Booth, Denver Post

A pleasant diversion serious enough to offer a little soul. Full Review

Moira MacDonald
August 25, 2006
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

While Burger's screenplay isn't always graceful, the movie's lovely enough that you might not notice. Full Review

Rene Rodriguez
August 25, 2006
Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

Dogged by an inert, stale aura that overcomes everything and everyone in the movie. Full Review

Terry Lawson
August 25, 2006
Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

Underneath its hocus-pocus is a compelling story, very well told. Full Review

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    • Chief Inspector Uhl: You can't destroy him you know. You can't bring down the Monarchy!
    • Eisenheim: I know I can't.
    • Chief Inspector Uhl: Then don't raise her again! Don't provoke those questions! [short Pause] Eisenheim I don't want to arrest you. I'm a cynical man, God knows. But if your manifestations are somehow real, then even I am willing to admit you're a very special person. And if its a trick, then its equally impressive. Either way you have a gift, so don't make me put you in jail! Promise me you won't do it again!
    • Eisenheim: I promise you, you'll enjoy this next show.
    • Chief Inspector Uhl: What do you want?
    • Eisenheim: Nothing.
    • Chief Inspector Uhl: Then why bring her back?
    • Chief Inspector Uhl: They don't recognise you.
    • Crown Prince Leopold: Keep your distance. I don't want to be seen with a Policeman.
    • Crown Prince Leopold: He has tricked you, it is all an illusion!
    • Chief Inspector Uhl: Perhaps there is truth in this illusion.
    • Crown Prince Leopold: I know you have been with him!
    • Duchess Sophie von Teschen: It has nothing to do with you.
    • Crown Prince Leopold: It has EVERYTHING to do with me!
    • Eisenheim: I always meant to return... I just... I kept thinking I'll find around the next corner...
    • Duchess Sophie von Teschen: What?
    • Eisenheim: A real mystery. I saw remarkable things but the only mystery I never solved was... why my heart couldn't let go of you.
    • Crown Prince Leopold: And we'll gather our best minds next time. You'll really have a challenge then.
    • Eisenheim: Then I shall prepare something special. Perhaps I'll make you disappear.

The Illusionist : Watch Free on TV

The Illusionist Trivia

  • Rufus Sewell has had a role on the following movies: -The Illusionist -A Knight's Tale -The Legend of Zorro What do this character have in common?  Answer »
  • a film that has a suprise ending after a disappearing act and giving clues to the prince killing his women  Answer »
  • What movie set in Vienna, has a magician who uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing?  Answer »
  • In what movie was a magician arrested for insulting a prince with his tricks and contacting the spirits of the dead?  Answer »

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