Around september last year the trailers of both The Illusionist and The Prestige hit the net and the two movies resembles each other so much that most people thought they'd eat into each other's business by being released so close to each other. Movies set in a late 1800s-early 1900s with protagonists that are magicians don't come along too often, so it is understandable why everyone seems to compare them with each other. I had loved The Prestige when I saw it, and I got to see The Illusionist yesterday. I was more interested in The Illusionist initially mainly because I am a big fan of Ed Norton and even Paul Giamatti excited me more than either Christian Bale or Hugh Jackman did (at least before I had seen The Prestige). Anyway, turns out that the two movies aren't alike at all! Both of them are "twist" movies ( a la The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects etc) where the ending explains a lot of things but while The Prestige is more of an edge-of-your-seat thriller where you see the rivalry of two magicians, The Illusionist takes the love-story angle of the plot a bit more seriously making it more of a laid-back movie. Not to say that it doesn't make you anticipate the explanations at the end, but you are not quite as anxious to see the answer as you are in The Prestige. This, however, is not necessarily a problem with the screenplay. It is just that they are different kinds of movies setting out to do different things. The Illusionist tries to make you care about the story and the characters a lot more and doesn't worry much about the magic, the tricks, even the twist till very late in the story while The Prestige is all about these things right from the very beginning. This means that the sets, the cinematography, the music and even the performances of the actors becomes much more important for The Illusionist than for The Prestige. This is not to say that these things were not good in The Prestige, just that you don't seem to notice anything other than the actual screenplay (except, maybe Christian Bale, some of whose scenes were quite brilliant).
Anyway, for someone who started with saying that these two movies aren't alike at all, I've spent a lot of time comparing them! And it is probably clear that I liked The Prestige much more than The Illusionist. Coming to the movie itself, I haven't been able to decide how much of the plot I can write about without spoiling the movie. Lets just say that its a movie about a magician (Ed Norton... this guy is going to be as big as De Niro or Al Pacino, though not necessarily on evidence of this movie.. the character here probably doesn't give him too much range to perform... he's brilliant in whatever he gets to do though.. ) living in the latter 1800s in Vienna. His love story crosses paths with the powerful crown prince of austria (and, as a consequence, with the prince's chief of police - the ever reliable Paul Giamatti) and his magic has to cross paths with tragedies, conspiracies and a murder. And that is about as far as I can go without putting in spoilers.
I know, I know... Not a great review. But then I always have this problem with movies where one has to be worried about giving away anything. That is probably why I call them my "review/brief comments" rather than my reviews! :) Maybe I should just call them my "ratings" and be done with it! In which case I could just have written "The Illusionist: 7.7/10".