The Illusionist had the odd luck of coming out at about the same time as The Prestige. Seems odd that two films about slightly mad magicians in top hats would hit the screens so closely. The Prestige had the good fortune to have a rare performance by David Bowie as Super Genius Nikola Telsa. I liked both of these movies, but they both left me wanting a bit more as well.
In The Illusionist we have the standard-issue star-crossed lovers, a rich girl and a poor boy, who are soon forced apart. Our hero, the boy, wanders the world and becomes a great magician. In fact, he becomes better than a great magician, he becomes a real live wizard. Or so we are lead to believe at one moment, only to be told that, well, no he really is just a trickster the next. Where The Prestige has the courage to say that what is being done on stage is impossible, but here is how he is doing it, The Illusionist never bothers to explain anything.
There are two main drawbacks to The Illusionist-1) it was filmed in annoyo-vision so that it sort of resembled an old style movie filmed in sepia-tone, and 2) that horrid accent that Ed Norton puts on for the part. I can deal with the massively convoluted plot and slight-of-hand story telling. I would have liked it better if they had made the ending a little more real and a little less dream sequence. Did any of that really happen, or was the Inspector just having a nice daydream on his way home? There was also the fact that The Illusionist’s new show was never explained, was it real magic? Does it matter? I suppose not.
I did like the costumes and the sets and the soundtrack was good. I just really found it annoying everytime The Illusionist opened his mouth. I know, it’s called acting, but here I think it might be called bad acting. The plot had many twists and turns, but they was easy enough see through. Maybe if you have never The Usual Suspects, this kind of story still works. All in all, I liked The Prestige better.