The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox - 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 109 minutes
Disc Format: BD-25
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, English/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring: Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan
Written & Directed by: Neil Burger
Music by: Philip Glass
Based on the short story Eisenheim The Illusionist by: Steven Millhauser
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 8, 2010
"Nothing is what it seems"
The acclaimed illusionist Eisenheim (Norton) has not only captured the imaginations of all of Vienna, but also the interest of the ambitious Crown Prince Leopold (Sewell). But when Leopold's soon to be fiance (Biel) rekindles a childhood fascination with Eisenheim, the Prince's interest evolves into obsession... and suddenly the city's Chief Inspector (Giamatti) finds himself investigating a shocking crime.
The illusionist is a dramatic fantasy film about the son of a cabinetmaker who one day when he was a teenager meets a traveling magician along a road. The magician performs several tricks for him and then supposedly vanishes along with the tree he was sitting beneath. The boy becomes obsessed with magic after this. Soon after he meets a girl named Sophie, who is of nobility and well above his social class. The two form a bond and vow to stay together despite their social differences and the objections of Sophie's family. They secretly continue to see each other, and meet in a secret hideout in the woods. He tells Sophie of his plans to go to China to learn more magic and she promises to go with him. On the day that they are going to leave the police come looking for Sophie and discovers them in their secret place. Sophie begs him to make them both disappear which he can't do and the two are separated. He leaves Vienna and returns fifteen years later under the name of Eisemheim. He has become a renowned master of magic and illusion and is playing at the local theater to packed audiences. Sophie, now the Duchess von Teschen, is betrothed to the Crown Prince Leopold, a ruthless heir apparent with a conniving, insecure and violent nature. When Sophie and Eisenheim inadvertently reconnect during one of his performances their old flame is rekindled. Once this is reported to Prince Leopold by his many spies he assigns his trusted emissary local police Chief Inspector Uhl to drive Eisenheim out of Vienna. Soon afterward tragedy strikes and Eisenheim must resort to his masterful craft and the greatest illusion of his career in order to expose the truth.
I remember when The Illusionist came out which was around the same time as The Prestige a film with similar subject matter. In reality they are thematically different but I found both to be equally good. This is more of a dramatic film with elements of romance, mystery and suspense. I like how the plot revolves around the character of Chief Inspector Uhl played by Paul Giamatti, an actor that I always enjoy watching. Uhl narrates the story and finds himself an unwilling participant in a serious game of cat and mouse between Eisenhiem and Prince Leopold. At its roots this is a romantic story with a magically intriguing spin that you may or may not see coming. Edward Norton is a fine actor. His reserved and charismatic lead is well integrated opposite Jessica Biel who isn't in his class but gives a credible performance. I found Rufus Sewell's Prince Leopold to be a scene stealing adversary who held sway almost every time he was onscreen. I have owned this film on DVD since its release and have watched it several times. Regardless of knowing the outcome I still enjoy its multi-genre and fantastical story, simply drawn yet engaging characters, and strong performances by Norton, Giamatti, and Sewell.
The rating is for some sexuality and violence.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Illusionist comes to Blu-ray disc from Fox featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 20 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.5 Mbps.
This film is dark with boldly applied contrast, deep blacks, muted colors and filtered lighting that gives it the distinctive visual aesthetic intended by the filmmakers. The effect tends to crush blacks and limit shadow delineation during segments containing low lighting (of which there are many). Bright scenes tend to fare better but are awash in golden highlights that give them a monochromatic essence. Colors are cleanly rendered but primarily consist of sepia tones that aren't especially vivid and fleshtones have a balmy tonal quality that leaves them looking drab. Images exhibit good definition, definable sharpness and varying levels of refinement that are scene dependent. Due to the lighting and filtering applied many scenes aren't quite as definitively resolved and can appear less dimensionally convincing. This presentation looks just fine overall and appears faithful to the film's original elements.
This is essentially a dialogue driven film however there are aspects of the presentation that make use of the rear channels to broaden the depth of the soundstage. Dialogue is crystal clear with discerning vocal description and refined texture. The mix relies heavily upon the front three channels. Separation, imaging and directional spacing are excellent as the blend of dialogue, music and recorded sounds are clearly articulated. The LFE channel is used primarily for subtle impact and for upper bass frequencies associated with the film's music. This is not the kind of track that is designed to be boisterous but it works well with the source material.
This two disc set contains a Blu-ray version and standard definition version of The Illusionist. There are no bonus supplements contained on the Blu-ray Disc. The DVD version contains the following bonus features:
- Audio commentary by writer/director Neil Burger
- The making of The Illusionist featurette
- Jessica Biel on The Illusionist
The Illusionist is an entertaining film that features a rewarding multi-genre story with a magically intriguing spin that is supported by solid performances from its talented cast. The nature of the film's photography doesn't lend it to eye popping high definition however its video presentation on Blu-ray appears faithful and looks just fine. There are no bonus supplements offered on the Blu-ray Disc however Fox has included the DVD version of the film which contains two brief production featurettes and an audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger. I am pleased to own The Illusionist on Blu-ray Disc however there may not be enough in this package to warrant an upgrade. If you're a fan but don't currently own it this set is a great option.
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