Time: 110 mins.
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
SYNOPSIS: A magician in turn-of-the-last-century Vienna falls in love with a woman well above his social standing. When she becomes engaged to the crown prince, the magician uses his powers to free her and undermine the stability of the royal house of Vienna.
BOTTOM LINE: This film is an old-fashioned, love story filled with romance and mystery brought to the screen with class, intelligence and style. The art direction and cinematography transport you to another place and time and the journey is a fascinating one. It unfolds like a classic fairy tale with all the requisite characters, including an evil prince and doomed maiden. Norton plays Eisenheim the Illusionist with an entrancing mixture of sadness and bravado that makes him intensely intriguing. Like a true magician you're never quite sure what he's hiding, but he makes it clear his emotions run deep.
The plot gains it's mysterious momentum when he returns to Vienna after a long absence to find his first and only love Sophie, played by Biel, ensnared by the political aspirations of the brutish crown prince (Sewell). Once the old friends reconnect, it becomes clear to all parties that securing her freedom will not be easy and most likely deadly. The film is perfectly cast Giamatti and Norton clearly enjoy their scenes together and even Biel manages to give a decent turn. Her beauty is essential to the role, but the part requires one to truly care about her future and she makes Sophie more than merely a damsel in distress. Though most watchers will be able to figure out the truth behind the magic, the road to discovery is still a well-crafted and entertaining one.