Director Christopher Nolan has a proclivity for warped narratives(Memento) and in The Prestige he serves up a deliciously twisty tale,puffed full of magic theatricality and inventive cinematic devices.With his remarkably sleight-of-hand direction, he spins the tale of tworivaling magicians in Victorian-era London, creating a cerebrallystimulating 2 hour long mise-en-scene in which the audience isliterally left guessing and gasping at its rare uniqueness throughmagic acts and bitter behind-the-stage intrigue.<br><br>The final pay-off of any magic act – the prestige – is of the essence,and preluding it is the pledge, followed by the turn. Together thesethree key components are slotted in unique positions in 'The Prestige'sarrestingly clever script but it is the titular act that propels thefilm. The pledge introduces our main characters: magicians AlfredBorden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) inturn-of-the-century London and we see how their friendship abruptlybecomes a fully-fledged rivalry and hostility with a magic act gonehorribly wrong in front of an audience. There is a death, and it lightsthe fuse of an onslaught of reel revelations and the one-upmanship thatwill ensue between the two competitors. 'The turn' comes to offerstwists by the bucketload in the form of love-interests, andtechnologically marvelous magic acts. I gasped, I scratched my head, Iwatched on in awe. No description will do it justice.<br><br>The prestige as the end note to the show – in which, for example, thedisappearer reappears to the deafening applause of the crowd – is someticulously composed in the film through foreshadowing and fracturedchronology that rigorously intersects, intertwines, intercuts,fast-forwards, rewinds and replays key parts of the story that thewhole spectacle floors you. Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathanhave worked out a template script that is more twisty and turny than amountain road and for that reason I am very reluctant to spoil even theslightest detail of the story of 'The Prestige'– of all of its acts, infact. If you are shaking your head thinking a clever twist ending doesnot make the movie (and I agree), know that this is not a "gotcha"-kindof Shyamalan trick where you want to stop the film, rewind it and watchit meticulous foreshadowing up to the cheap pay-off, but atightly-written ever-shifting hall of mirrors with so many intrinsictwists that on your way home you will still be scratching you head andsearching for clues.<br><br>Our two magicians are perfectly-cast with Hugh Jackman capturing theshowy, slick, ambition-driven nature of his character Angier incontrast to Bale's technique-driven purist who may be well on his wayto perfecting the craft, but lacks the 'Abracadabra' entertainmentvalue. I had always crowned the latter the more capable actor of thetwo, but the fact is that Jackman performs just as well in the film.Having said that, Borden has more layers to his complex, contradictory(keyword) persona than the flashy, greedy Angier which perhaps begsmore weight from the actor behind the role, shifting more demand onChristian Bale. The sad fact of it is that neither of these two men arelikable characters and elicit nothing more than temporary sympathy.However, the secrecy with which the intricate story approaches themmakes it impossible for the viewer to slot them in protagonist vs.antagonist positions, and indeed they are given almost the exact samescreen-time and voice-over narration throughout, a subtle and brilliantaccolade of Nolan's.<br><br>To further evaluate the cast of The Prestige, David Bowie and MichaelCaine undoubtedly merit a great deal of praise for supporting the twomoody, unlikeable leading men. It is a crying shame then that ScarlettJohansson – always an incapable actress except for the rare occasionsin which she plays a sultry American vixen (Match Point) – performs sobadly in the role of Olivia Wenscombe, a magic assistant pendingbetween Borden and Angier. Here she is actually given a very good andimportant character who is not necessarily bad like the rest, butbotches her interpretation by giving an unspeakably hammy Londonaccent. Nolan picks up on her shortcomings as an actress, and resortsto boob-shots en masse. This he should be fully entitled to do as adirector, for a beautiful diversion will always camouflage the processand any of its potential missteps, as Michael Caine's character putsforward.<br><br>With Scarlett as a pleasurable paint-job, twists by the bucket-load andflashy magic tricks as windowdressing to a solid mystery film, there islittle or no need to delve deeper into the psyches of its characters tokeep our attention. Yet this is done, and superbly so, by ChristopherNolan. 'Antihero' gets a whole new spin to it in The Prestige with twofriends-turned-rivals so bitterly poised on the brink of obsession ofoutshining the other that succeeding with the ultimate 'prestige' ofmagic followed by applause is enough to drive them to murder,bankruptcy, deceit and sabotage. Borden simply wants to be better on atechnical level, while Angier wants the public's recognition andwide-spread fame. Their ambition is in effect largely the same: createthe definitive deceptive illusion and do it through any meansnecessary.<br><br>'The Prestige' is a majestic film that nevertheless spans across toolong a running time. Condensation would have done wonders and surelybumped it up a notch, as would underpinning some humour at one or twopoints (it is VERY gloomy), but it truly is a great cinematicachievement and a shoe-in for my top 10 of 1006, and easily the mostinventive film I have seen in years. I am eagerly anticipated directorChristopher Nolan's next sleight-of-hand direction, and it looks likethe closest is The Dark Knight (2008).<br><br>9 out of 10
Drama / Mystery
Drama / Mystery
In the end of the Nineteenth Century, in London, Robert Angier, his beloved wife Julia McCullough and Alfred Borden are friends and assistants of a magician. When Julia accidentally dies during a performance, Robert blames Alfred for her death and they become enemies. Both become famous and rival magicians, sabotaging the performance of the other on the stage. When Alfred performs a successful trick, Robert becomes obsessed trying to disclose the secret of his competitor with tragic consequences.
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