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The beauty of home video is that is gives one access to smaller independent films that they may not have caught on with audiences in their limited theatrical runs. Also home video allows one to discover films they may have overlooked simply because the latest Hollywood blockbuster grabbed all the attention. Although fairly successful theatrically, THE ILLUSIONIST ($25) is a terrific film that a lot of folks may not have seen until its release on home video- and the Blu-ray release gives folks another new chance to discover this impressive bit of cinematic legerdemain.

Set in Vienna, at the end of the nineteenth century, THE ILLUSIONIST tells the story of Eisenheim the Illusionist (Edward Norton), a master magician, who has returned to the country of his birth, after having traveled the world and amazing audiences with his uncanny talents. During a performance attended by Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), Eisenheim encounters Duchess Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), with whom he had a mutual infatuation during their teenage years. After the performance, Eisenheim learns that Sophie is expected to marry the Crown Prince, and to make matters worse; Leopold has an abusive history with women. During a command performance for Leopold, Eisenheim humiliates the Crown Prince, which results Chief Inspector Walter Uhl (Paul Giamatti) shutting the illusionistís popular show. With his show closed, Eisenheim and Sophie renew their friendship. During their time together, Eisenheim and Sophie realize that their feelings for one another still go deeper, but Leopold remains a formidable obstacle for the lovers to overcome. However, before the two can get away, the story takes an unforeseen turnÖ with Eisenheim returning to the stage, in a completely different type of magic show, one that leaves audiences believing that the illusionist possesses true supernatural powers. The cast of THE ILLUSIONIST also features Eddie Marsan, Jake Wood, Tom Fisher, Aaron Johnson, Eleanor Tomlinson and Karl Johnson.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made THE ILLUSIONIST available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Overall, THE ILLUSIONIST boasts a marvelous 1080p presentation that effectively renders this visually stylized film. Although in modern color film, the cinematography of THE ILLUSIONIST displays an antiqued quality, with some of the employed techniques emulating films from the silent era. The image is filmic, yet mildly diffuse. There is a nice level of fine detail and texturing, but the stylistic trappings of the cinematography do create some limits. Colors are somewhat subdued, yet there is a warmth that radiates from the natural candle and fire lighting used for the interiors. Blacks are true, while the whites appear crisp. Contrast is smooth, but shadow detail is purposely limited by the photographic style. The elements from which THE ILLUSIONIST are transferred appear quite clean. Grain is ever-present, but maintains a nice film-like quality for the presentation.

THE ILLUSIONIST is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The sound design is subtle, but perfectly married to the dramatic nature of the story and period setting. As such, the forward soundstage is dominant, while the surrounds arenít quite as active. There are strong separations across the front, with the modest directionality of environmental sounds being directed to the rear. Thanks to the lossless encode, fidelity is strong and Philip Glassí musical score reaps the benefit. The bass channel adds weight to the sound effects and music. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is always easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but Spanish subtitles are provided.

The discís minimal menus allow access to the standard scene selection and set up features. No supplemental content is provided, other than a SD DVD version of the film on disc two.

THE ILLUSIONIST is a terrific film that offers audiences an impressive bit of cinematic legerdemain. The Blu-ray presentation effectively renders this visually stylized film. Recommended.



The Illusionist [Blu-ray] (2006)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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