Saturday, February 23, 2008


Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, Paul Giamatti

"Nothing is what it seems"

Star Movies

For some reason, this film which was shown at roughly the same time as "The Prestige" never made it to the theaters in this part of the globe. So thank God for cable and Star Movies, I was able to see it and understand why it would surely be compared with the Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman starrer. But beyond the fact that both films dealt with magicians and their baffling tricks, they are different in so many ways. This review won't delve into a comparative analysis and aim to discern which of the two movies was better. I believe that every single film must be seen for its aim to tell us a story and should not suffer in comparison with other films in the same genre.

This film is based on a short story entitled "Eisenheim, the Illusionist" by Steven Millhauser. The fact that the writers were able to extend it into a film version is laudable. It is set in Vienna, one of the oldest cities in the world at the turn of the 1900s. The tone of the film was neatly depicted in the authentic art direction and cinematography. It tells the tale of Edward Abramovich, an enigmatic young boy who falls in love with Sophie, a fair maiden from the upper part of society. After they were separated by certain events, he returns to the city 15 years later as the newest sensation in town ... Eisenheim the Illusionist. It has to be stated that during those times, shows of such nature were the hit form of entertainment for an easily gullible crowd. True enough, the young lovers are reunited but conflict ensues. Sophie is now the Duchess Von Teschen and is bethroned to Leopold, the Crown Prince of Austria. Throw in an eager Police Inspector who is determined to learn the tricks of the trade and you have an ensemble cast set to beguile you in this film.

The cast has to be credited for churning out quite believable performances. Edward Norton complete with facial hair and genuine accent plays the illusionist with aplomb. According to some articles, he even performed some of the magic tricks himself after he was coached by some of the best known masters of illusion in the world today. Paul Giamatti as Inspector Uhl is in his elements. He completely takes over every role that you simply forget he is merely acting. Rufus Sewell as the protagonist was brilliant. So much so that despite being the 'villain' you still sympathize with his character. I mean for God's sake the Crown Prince was simply progressive in his views and ideas for the country. But alas during those times, such characteristic wasn't cool (for lack of a better word). The only one who didn't score well in my books is the below average acting of Jessica Biel. She is just a pretty face sans acting skills. I expected her to be more reactionary in her role as Sophie. I believe she was miscast. The lack of chemistry between her and Edward Norton was evident in some scenes.

This period piece was boosted primarily by a good cast and clever visual effects. Midway through the film, you can already more or less figure out how the story line would play out. But it still made for good entertainment viewing. If only to be mesmerized by the strong screen presence of Rufus Sewell as the brooding Count Prince Leopold. His character was loosely based on the real Crown Prince of Austria, a rather tragic historical figure.

I conclude by admitting I was much more intrigued by the plot line of "The Prestige" for what it's worth.

4 popcorn buckets:

kazu_11 said...

i actually liked this film a lot and you were right about the cast. i think that did it for the movie.

D@phn3 L@ur@ said...

Hi kazu_11

The story line was rather predictable and easy to figure out midway of the film. The cast pulled it out appropriately without making us lose interest in the narration.

kazu_11 said...

you're right. oh, i just love paul giamatti! do you have a review of 'sideways' here? how about the documentary, 'born into brothels'? just two of my favorite films.

D@phn3 L@ur@ said...

Paul Giamatti is a good actor both in supporting roles as well as in lead roles like in "Sideways". I watched that a long time ago so I doubt if I have a review of it in this blog.

I've never heard of the documentary "Born into Brothels" it sounds interesting though.


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