“The Illusionist” (2006) tells the tale of true love lost at child’s age (or rather torn apart) and found again years later, saved by a net of illusions. What is real what is illusion? Eisenheim (Edward Norton) the Illusionist has mastered his art and comes back for the love of his life (Jessica Biel) years after and tries to rescue her from the clutches of Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) which leads to her being murdered or is she?
Production values are top notch, costumes and make-up transport you right back to the Romatic Era of late 19th century Vienna. Disbelief is suspended for the time being. Rather than asking yourself “How does he do it” you keep asking yourself “Is it real?”.
Opposite to “The Prestige” where you constantly are rather facing the rivalry of two magicians with the only question being “How is it done?” and the answer basically being pointless since the machine for “The New Transported Man” is real and does not involve any tricks. Here, the Illusionist differs significantly from not only method but also motif. Saving the love of your life and risking lives in the process when all hinges on a net of clever illusions to work on and off stage at all times. It provides for a much better entertainment than the rather bland pattern of rivalry in “The Prestige”.
Admittedly, the “romance” part of “The Illusionist” can be too much for some and some may prefer the “mystery thriller” component in “The Prestige” over this one but comparing the two movies is like comparing apples with oranges anyhow. As far as tricks go “The Illusionist” simply offers the better and smarter ideas, challenging the viewer all the way to the end, to which end you have to see for yourself.