Edward Norton stars as Eisenheim, a slight-of-hand artist in turn-of-the-century Vienna. His inexplicable act draws admiration, first from the public, and then from scheming Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) and his fiance, Sophie (Jessica Biel). Sophie and Eisenheim were childhood lovers, and their rekindled affection calls the attention of Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti). Sophie's interest in Eisenheim puts him at odds with the prince, who demands that the subversive entertainer be shut down. Reduced to four sentences the plot sounds pretty lackluster, but it's a lot more complex than that. This is a film about secrets. This is a film about desire and revenge.
And really, the plot might not be as important as the production. The film is rendered in dark colors, but it's not a dark film. Everything about it looks and feels so mysterious, so start and high-contrast, and this is perfect. In a way it feels like an homage to early silent films (especially The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), and I'm not sure how much of that was intentional. The ending is lackluster, and I know that saying so will make some people decide they're not interested after all, but like May or The Village, the journey to the ending is so worthwhile that the movie earns its indulgence. The soundtrack is by Phillip Glass, whom I've never felt strongly about, but it supports this movie beautifully.
Bottom line: It's not a flawless film, but in presentation it's a great film. It's on its way out of the theaters, so if you're skeptical you catch it when it comes out on DVD.
Anyway, now that I've seen a great film, I'm watching a crappy one. Specifically, I'm watching The Stuff, in which a substance that looks like marshmallow cream oozes out of the ground and people start eating it. The Stuff becomes the junk-food sensation of the year, and the people who eat it turn into violent zombies. I kid you not.