The Illusionist (2006)
If you're tired of period pieces, try this one from Neil Burger. The Illusionist brings a fresh, vivid look into the enchanting 19th century empire of Austria-Hungary. The film has no intention of being a truthful historical account, but it has parallels and thematic resemblances both to the development of the empire and to the actual Crown Prince Rudolf. However, The Illusionist's asset is its delicate, purposeful and tickling direction by Neil Burger. This is not an important film; it is of no great thematic significance. Still, it is a captivating and cerebral challenge that will entertain and puzzle - and do so packed in at times art-house surroundings. Ultimately, the film is elevated by magnificent acting. Jessica Biel is almost a revelation (her reputation will enjoy a leap thanks to this), and it's great to see Edward Norton back in his right element next to her. However, it is yet again Paul Giamatti who steals the show. He can express more with a mere look than most actors can with a pageful of lines. To me, this performance (including his electric closing scene) establishes him as the best character actor in the business currently. Philip Seymour Hoffman, I dare you.