The Prestige (2006)
|Writers:||Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, Christopher Priest|
|Cast:||Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, David Bowie, Michael Caine, Rob Arbogast, Andy Serkis, Piper Perabo|
|Released:||Friday, October 27, 2006|
|Rating:||Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.|
At the dawn of the 20th century, rival magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) endeavor to reveal each other's secrets. Obsessed by the escalating competition, the two illusionists begin to perform increasingly risky tricks, which soon turn deadly.
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The name comes from the three parts of a magician's tick: the Pledge (you are shown something ordinary: a coin), the Turn (wherein something extraordinary happens--the coin vanishes), and the Prestige (the coin comes back behind your ear). In this period piece two stage magicians with a serious hate-on for each other duel over a series of years to upstage, ruin, or kill each other. This isn't rivalry--it's obsession.
With Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman cast as the rivals it's a heavy hitting cast. However, David Bowie cast picture-perfect as Nicolai Tesla steals the show. He makes his actor-ly rivals ... disappear.
Movies about magic need to do two things:
1. They need to take us behind the scenes.
2. They can't ruin the illusion.
As the movie says, a trick explained becomes mundane--uninteresting. So this is a fine line to walk. Ultimately The Prestige does some stuff that's jaw-dropping in terms of what you'd expect but it's Hollywood so I don't think it has to play fair--and for my money, it plays fair enough. You see how some of the tricks are done: some are clever. Some are gruesome. There's a trick they'll never sufficiently explain (and, as I said, that's okay). The story is told out of order--misdirection? You can decide.
There are some reveals throughout the movie that are well (and subtly telegraphed--subtle enough that they may not generate an "oh yeah!?" moment, well enough that when the two magicians watch a famous Chinese magician getting into a carriage and comment on his sacrifice in pretending in public to always be a cripple that we can see later on at least one of them knew what he was talking about).
If the movie has a weakness it's that Michael Caine is the most likable guy in the whole movie ... by far. I mean the two stage guys do have some elements of sympathy to them but if you do step back just a bit it's Jerk and Jerkier. This does not really endear me to the show in the way I'd have preferred.
So, yeah: The Prestige. Nasty enough to be good. A little too nasty to be great!
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