The Illusionist appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer consistently looked very good.
Sharpness appeared fairly solid, but some softness occurred. Most of the movie came across as reasonably distinct, though. Only occasional shots looked moderately fuzzy, and those generally happened during low-light sequences. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also noticed no issues related to edge enhancement. Print flaws weren’t a factor, as the movie showed no signs of specks, marks or other distractions.
Illusionist featured a subdued palette. The colors consistently seemed appropriate within the fairly monochromatic production design, as they reflected a yellow/brown tone. The film replicated the hues accurately fit within the movie’s spectrum. Black levels also were fairly deep and dense, and shadow detail looked fine. This was a good representation of a challenging set of visuals.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Illusionist, it presented a reasonably good affair. There wasn’t much to the soundfield. The score displayed good stereo imaging but otherwise, much of the track stayed subdued. I noted reasonably good general ambience throughout the film, and some more heavily populated scenes – like those at performances or on bustling streets – provided a greater level of activity. The surrounds seemed fairly passive throughout the movie, but they contributed a nice sense of reinforcement, particularly in regard to the music. Trains made for some positive involvement, but I didn’t find much to make the soundfield memorable.
Audio quality appeared strong. Speech came across as natural and crisp, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects largely played a minor role in the film, but they always seemed accurate and well defined, with no issues related to distortion or other areas. The mix provided good reproduction of the score. The pieces of music came across as acceptably bright and vivid. This wasn’t a slam-bang soundtrack, but it worked for the movie.
When we shift to the extras, we begin with an audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger. He presents a running, screen-specific chat. Burger discusses sets and locations, his interest in the project and his adaptation of the original short story, cast, characters and performances, magic and effects, visual design, historical research, and other issues.
Like the movie itself, Berger’s commentary proves serviceable but unexceptional. He manages to cover all the appropriate subjects and gives us a more than competent view of his movie. However, the commentary never quite becomes terribly involving. It works and delivers the nuts and bolts, but it just doesn’t turn into anything memorable.
Two featurettes follow. The Making of The Illusionist includes movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from actors Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell, and Paul Giamatti. They do little more than tell us about the story and characters. It’s nothing more than a glorified trailer.
Next comes Jessica Biel on The Illusionist. She chats for a whopping 89 seconds as she describes her character and briefly relates why she wanted to do the project. It’s a waste of time.
Finally, we find some Trailers. In addition to the promo for The Illusionist, we get ads for Haven, Find Me Guilty and Winter Passing.
The Illusionist boasts an interesting twist on the love triangle theme with distinctive visuals, but it fails to stand out in many other ways. Though the film presents acceptable entertainment, it seems lighter than air and doesn’t stick with the viewer. The DVD offers very good picture as well as appropriate audio and mediocre extras. This disc stands as an average release for an average movie.