Thursday, July 15, 2010

'The Prestige' is a tale of trickery and obsession

The Prestige (2006)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johannson, David Bowie, and Piper Perabo
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

From the time that they first met as young magicians on the rise, Robert Angier (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale) were competitors. However, their friendly competition evolves into a bitter rivalry making them fierce enemies-for-life. When Borden invents what seems to be the ultimate magic trick, Angier embarks on an obsessive quest to find its secret, over the advice of his longtime associate Cutter (Caine). Eventually, he finds his way to Nikola Tesla (Bowie) and discovers the means to best his rival once and for all.

"The Prestige" is a brilliantly constructed movie that manages to tell its story in flashbacks nestled in flashbacks within flashbacks, yet the viewer never loses track of what is going on in the film. It also manages to present a cast of characters that both seem intimately familiar to the viewer as the film progresses, and who turn out to be very different than what we thought when their secrets are revealed, while evoking the sense of the late 19th century music hall circuit and the intense competiton that existed between performers for bookings.

Although the film exists mostly within the realm of the realistic, it is at its best when it introduces the weird science of Nikola Tesla--and the fantastic and twisted applications it is put to in persuit of creating the ultimate illusion. In fact, one of the film's "big reveals" that make up the climax is so twisted, and the nature of Tesla's wonder-tech so strange that I almost put this review in Terror Titans instead of here. Ultimately, though, I think it fits mostly in the mystery movie category, even if it almost defies classification.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic film, I thought. Really clever and not let down by the acting, as is usually the case for me with newer films.