The Prestige: Now You See It – Now You Don’t!

The Prestige - Algier's Greatest TrickThe Prestige is an entertaining film with some great performances and some equally impressive twists – though not necessarily the ones you might be expecting!

The Prestige is the tale of two young wannabe magicians who begin their careers as part of another magician's act. Alfred Borden [Christian Bale] is the technician of the pair; Robert Angier [Hugh Jackman] is the showman. While working for this other magician, Angier's wife, Julia [Piper Perabo], is killed when a trick goes wrong. Angier blames Borden – and thus begins a lifetime of bitter rivalry.

When Borden comes up with a magical masterpiece called The Transported Man, Angier becomes obsessed with figuring out how it works. His efforts take him to America, where he seeks audience with the radical scientist, Nikola Tesla [a subtle, and very effective David Bowie], to learn the secret of the apparatus Tesla is alleged to have built for Borden.

As we watch the film, we learn, courtesy of Angier's mentor, John Cutter [Michael Caine], the three stages of every successful magic trick: The Pledge [wherein we are shown something ordinary], The Turn [in which said something is made extraordinary], and The Prestige [wherein said something is returned to its original state]. The film follows these stages…

In The Pledge, we meet our two prestidigitators-to-be; stage two finds them becoming the best magicians in the world; stage three… Ah, but that would be telling…

Like all of Christopher Nolan's films, to date, The Prestige requires its audience to pay close attention. While some things may seem obvious, they may – or may not – be as them appear. When Cutter dissects one of Borden's tricks, can his simple explanation be right – or is there something otherworldly going on? When, thanks to Cutter, Angier is able to pull the same trick via Cutter's method, we begin to think that Borden may be doing the same – and yet, there remains that hint of doubt that makes a good magician's audience wonder…

The Prestige - Caine, Johannson & Jackman

The screenplay, by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan [adapted from the novel by Christopher Priest], weaves in and out of the ordinary and extraordinary and, ultimately, works because it treats both with the same respect. As Borden asks at one point, "Are you watching closely?" In truth, you will have to watch closely to discern the reality behind the illusions – and when the two appear to merge, we are reminded that misdirection is at the heart of all magic tricks.

Christopher Nolan has yet to make a film that is less than excellent, and The Prestige keeps his record intact – despite having two lead characters whose obsessions are so great that they only allow for glimmerings of the two men's actual personalities. What makes the film – you should forgive the expression – magical, is a combination of two factors: the intelligence and wit of the script, and the quality performances, especially from the supporting cast.

Michael Caine continues to create characters of surprising depth without seeming to do much at all; Piper Perabo makes Julia endearing despite her limited screen time and small number of lines; Rebecca Hall almost steals every scene she's in, as Borden's wife, Sarah. The aforementioned David Bowie, and Andy Serkis [as Tesla's assistant, Alley] make an intriguing pair – there could be an entire movie about the two of them…

Nolan's direction, as with his other films, allows the story to unfold in its own time [the film runs 130 minutes], but never drags. The cinematography, by Wally Pfister, is lush enough to evoke the period, and concise enough to allow the story to tell itself.

The Prestige may not be the Oscar

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