The Illusionist’ is a film that was often compared with Christopher Nolan‘s ‘The Prestige’ which had a similar theme inspired from the life of the turn of the 20th century magicians and was released about the same time. It fails the comparison I am afraid.
The story takes place in the last decades of the Austro-Hungarian empire, where a magician of modest origins is using his skills to fight the system and win back his lost love who is to become the wife of the crown prince. The intrigue is quite simplistic and the characters around the main hero are all schematic, with the exception maybe of the chief police inspector played by Paul Giamatti who oscillates between fear and allegiance to the system on one side and curiosity and search for truth on the other side. So it falls upon Edward Norton to save the film, and he does it brightly. It’s his best role until now in my opinion – he is dark and subtle, sensible and articulate. While ‘The Prestige’ will probably remain the better film about magicians of that year, Norton will stay as the better magician in the two films.

An interview with Norton about this role can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QslgkMt-ih4 and the oficial Web site is available at http://www.theillusionist.com/