NPR logo Friday Movies: 'The Illusionist'

Friday Movies: 'The Illusionist'

Edward Norton and Jessica Biel in Yari Film Group's The Illusionist. Yari Film Group hide caption

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Yari Film Group

We were hoping Bob Mondello would give us the lowdown on Snakes on a Plane, which is finally out this weekend. But he sent in this review of The Illusionist just before running to catch his own plane back from Argentina. Hmmm, Serpientes En El Avion, perhaps?

The Illusionist — Edward Norton plays a turn-of-the-last-century magician who's willing to bring down the entire Hungarian Empire as long as it means he'll get the girl. Considering that the girl is Jessica Biel, who could blame him? Meanwhile, Paul Giamatti is furrowed of brow and delectably wry as the magic-loving inspector who's hot on nearly everyone's heels. Director Neil Burger gets the period details right in his first costume epic and has a field day with showing how magic was managed back then (on one occasion, the folks who, for purposes of the script, are guessing wrong about how a trick is being done, are actually demonstrating how it WAS managed in 1900). In short, the illusions are smart, as is the script. The cinematography is gorgeous, as is Biel. Now it's up to the marketing department to pull a rabbit out of its hat and make a period drama stand out among the summer blockbusters.