To reference The Illusionist’s most obvious cinematic forerunner would be to ruin its central revelation, but suffice it to say that Neil Burger’s period piece (based on Steven Millhauser's short story “Eisenheim The Illusionist”) – about a mysterious magician named Eisenheim (Edward Norton) who causes much consternation for Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) in turn-of-the-century Vienna – has at least one giant trick up its sleeve. A peasant whose low social status prevented him, as a young boy, from being with the countess he loved, Eisenheim is reunited with his former paramour (Jessica Biel’s Sophie) when she, at the bequest of Leopold (whom she’s intended to marry), participates in one of the illusionist’s astonishing performances. The political and the personal soon intersect in treacherous ways, as Eisenheim begins planning to abscond with Sophie, Leopold (who aims to overthrow his father and assume the throne) tries to do away with the seemingly supernatural-powered artist threatening to undermine his rule, and Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) strives to remain loyal to Leopold while also keeping Eisenheim, whom he admires, from imprisonment. Burger stages his misdirection-laden story with stately reserve, employing a sepia-tinted cinematographic color palette and Philip Glass’ often-baroque score to establish a lush, velvety tone that’s only disrupted by the appearance of the lovely but miscast Biel. Alas, despite Giamatti’s richly shaded turn as the conflicted Uhl and Norton’s focused, intense portrayal of the titular conjurer, The Illusionist’s romantic heart is feeble and its attempts at historical contextualization (as well as addressing of secular-vs.-spiritual issues) are depressingly underdeveloped, making the film little more than a handsomely constructed but decidedly minor sleight of hand.