Based on the popular short story, “The Illusionist” is a magical love story - literally. Eisenheim is a magician whose astounding shows make him well-known throughout Vienna. Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), who doesn’t believe in magic, decides to attend one of Eisenheim’s popular shows to disprove the magic in his act. He also brings the woman betrothed to him, Sophie von Teschen, who is very interested in the magician’s show. During his act, for one special trick, Eisenheim calls for a volunteer, and Sophie is chosen. While onstage, Sophie and Eisenheim recognize each other as childhood friends and the attraction between them is palpable.
Eisenheim longs to pursue a romance with Sophie, but she and the Prince soon become officially engaged. Determinedly, the magician woos Sophie with his magical abilities and simultaneously unravels corruption of the royal house and family that the Prince belongs to.
Eisenheim’s efforts do not go to waste. Before long the two long-lost friends begin a illicit affair. Even if Sophie was not engaged to be married to the Prince, she is of a much higher class than a lowly magician, so their romance is doubly forbidden. Enraged by the magician’s popularity and his determination to reveal the secrets of the throne, Prince Leopold obtains the assistance of Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) to find enough dirt on the magician to put him out of business and possibly in prison. Undaunted by those who wish him ill will, Eisenheim begins planning his most complicated, amazing illusion and his fans and supporters continue to grow.
This film is based on the short story, “Eisenheim the Illusionist,” by Steven Millhauser and is directed by Neil Burger whose other directing credit includes “Interview With the Assassin” (2002). Several talented stars head the cast, including my personal favorites, Paul Giamatti (“Lady In the Water”), and Edward Norton (“The Italian Job,” “Down In the Valley”). Jessica Biel, well known for her role on the TV family drama, “7th Heaven” stars as Sophie. Rufus Sewell (“Tristan & Isolde”) and Eddie Marsan (“Miami Vice”) also star.