The Prestige (2006)
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Review Date: September 26, 2007
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan
Producers: Christopher Nolan, Aaron Ryder, Emma Thomas
Christian Bale as Alfred
Hugh Jackman as Robert
Michael Caine as Cutter
It’s the turn of the century (1899) and two up-and-coming magicians have become obsessed with one-upping one another for the greatest magic trick of all-time. Both men ultimately turn to the dark side of human nature in order to find out the others’ secrets and to beat them at the game of illusions. Of course, much like in real life, their obsessive behavior leads to bad decision-making, negative turns and people dying. Which one of the two magicians will win the battle? Not sure, but my money’s on Wolverine!! Or Batman!!
Yet another solid outing from director Christopher Nolan who hires two ideal candidates as his dueling set of magicians in this film, creates a visually appetizing environment around them, a bag of illusions featuring tricks at every turn and an original screenplay, set to play in three distinctive acts, much like the setup for the magicians in the movie. My biggest kudos in this feature have to go out to stars Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman though. While the story could be considered a tad redundant at certain points, with the clashing magicians seemingly going back and forth and back and forth and forth and back with their one-upsmanship (not to mention a little confusing with the shifts in the time narrative), it was the two appealing actors who kept my eyes glued to the screen and my ears, all over the dialogue. Now while I was (unfortunately) able to figure out one of the film’s biggest “surprises” about halfway through, I was still pretty engaged throughout, even though I wasn’t entirely blindsided when the final “prestige” was delivered (the journey is still riveting, despite the fact that I picked that one item off). I was hoping that I was wrong when I put a few cues together at the one-hour mark to reveal the “ultimate reveal”, but alas, maybe all these years of watching so many con movies finally sucker-punched me with the natural sense of looking behind the curtain at all times.

That said, the film still kept me going with the actors all punching in their respective acting clocks, including a surprisingly effective David Bowie, an equally surprising Gollum as Bowie’s sidekick, as well as Rebecca Hall (whom I didn’t know before this movie), the love of Bale’s life in the film. Johansson was the only actor in the film who didn’t entirely blow me away, but I think that had more to do with her character, which didn’t seem altogether developed. The film was a breath to behold though, and the tricks of magic – as well as their “reveals” – all very fun and engaging. I have to be honest in that I don’t think I fully “got” the ending -- at least what happened on Bale’s end exactly – but I suppose that’s half of this film’s fun, as it almost dares us to figure out all of its mysteries by the end. I’m sure that another round in my DVD player would only enhance this film’s value, especially when you consider all of its subtext, metaphors and of course, straight-forward trickery. The battle between the two magicians is ultimately what keeps the filming churning forward though, much like the obsession that dominates people with jealous tales of revenge (COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, anyone?), and both Bale and Jackman truly encapsulated the dark side of such passion very effectively (I mean, it’s Batman vs Wolverine…how can you go wrong?!?!!).

That said, if you’re not into movies with “twists”, stay far away from THE PRESTIGE as it essentially rotates on twists all the way around and back, and the female characters definitely are not as developed as the men, but I guess you can’t have it all in one film. I dug it and look forward to watching it again one day, so that I can be assured of my full understanding of the film, so that I can explain it to my kids (if I ever have kids, that is).
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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