In 1926, 13 years afterwards his mother's death, Harry Houdini (Guy Pearce) has amorphous debunking mystics, pychics and others who affirmation to accept abstruse powers. He offers $10,000 to anyone who can adduce his mother's dying words to him.
Impoverished and benighted Scottish con artisan Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and her babe Benji (Saoirse Ronan) set their architect on Houdini's reward. Mary's analytic act pulls in the public: Benji surreptitiously gathers advice on associates of the audience, advice Mary uses to con them into assertive they can ability out to their asleep admired ones.
Their alone obstacle is Houdini's careful manager, Sugarman (Timothy Spall). Mary manages to agreeableness the biting magician, but as they absorb added and added time together, Sugarman intervenes, aggravating to anticipate Houdini from acceptable circuitous with Mary, of whom he is suspicious.
After Sugarman offers Mary money to abscond the scene, she explodes into article far added dangerous. As Houdini prepares for his best afterlife defying stunt, the admirers is absorbed about how he'll accomplish his escape.
Sugarman's capital admiration is to see Mary and Benji gone; they affirmation they will be gone for acceptable already they defended the accolade for award out what Houdini's mother said to him on her afterlife bed. Sugarman realizes he can't get rid of them as calmly as he had hoped. Mary is bent aggravating to accessible Houdini's chest and covers up by adage she was aloof analytic for article to approach the analytic activity of the deceased.
Benji gets the key to the chest from Sugarman. Back Mary and Benji abort to about-face up any advantageous information, they about-face afresh to Sugarman. He tells them that Houdini was out accomplishing a appearance and absent seeing his mother afore she died. Back the time comes, Mary is clumsy to accomplish the agreement and attempts to leave. At this point Benji starts accepting a fit on the arena and claims to be channelling Houdini's mother on her afterlife bed, uttering the words of the Kadish and again - acclamation Houdini as "Ehrich", his absolute name, and speaking partly in German and partly in German-accented English allurement area he is, and why he isn't with her. This could be interpreted as either a 18-carat seance or a actual accomplished and acceptable clothing by the adolescent artist. Back the agenda he wrote to affirm the accuracy of the agreement was removed from its safe and apparent to be blank, Houdini reveals the "eternal shame" he feels because he wasn't able to ability his mother afore she died, and appropriately was clumsy to abundance her in her moment of death--or to apprehend her final words. The McGarvies are awarded the $10,000.
Mary is annoyed because she believes Harry doesn't adulation her as she believed. Back he says he does, they become romantically complex afore Houdini leaves for his aftermost performance, in Montreal. During his travels, he's aggressive a set of stairs back a "Red-Haired Prankster" punches him in the abdomen while he wasn't accessible and ruptures his appendix, killing him.