The Prestige Dazzles and Delights
by Alex Billington
October 20, 2006
Christopher Nolan has done it again. The Prestige is another masterpiece that Nolan can set alongside Memento and Batman Begins. Nolan takes us on another adventure with Christian Bale and Sir Michael Caine, who he has previously directed in Batman Begins and who he will soon direct in its sequel The Dark Knight. The Prestige mixes crafty storytelling, amazing acting, and stunning visuals into one of the most entertaining and vividly astounding movies of 2006. It's the big-budget magician movie that everyone has been hoping for and that will overshadow the equally enjoyable but less visual The Illusionist from earlier in the year.
The intricate story in The Prestige will keep everyone on their toes the entire time. Two friends and emerging magicians, Rupert "The Great Danton" Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred "The Professor" Borden (Bale), both seek a life in performing magic and developing the best tricks in the world. A tragedy destroys their friendship and creates a rivalry in which they battle to perform the best magic trick ever seen. Angier's inventor and manager is the wise Cutter (Caine), who helps Angier figure out Borden's tricks and develop better ones in return. Angier also encounters the great engineer and scientist Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) and his assistant Mr. Alley (Andy Serkis) on his travels to Colorado while seeking the ultimate magic trick. This is only the start of a complicated story that requires viewers' full attention.
As a child I was infatuated with magic and wanted to be a magician. Hearing about and finally seeing The Prestige rekindled that sense of wonderment and made it that much more incredible. Much of that is due to the fantastic storytelling and direction from Christopher Nolan. Nolan and his brother Jonathan have put together a captivating screenplay based on the Christopher Priest novel of the same name. It is a whimsical progression of twists, turns, and mystery all the way through to the end. Don't forget the tagline "are you watching closely?" because you'll need to be in order to stay on top of the tricks that they're pulling on you.
The Prestige is also a period film that focuses on the technical innovations and engineering capacities at the turn of the 20th century. The cinematographers use a mix of period sets and flawless visual effects that feel appropriate and truly believable. The Prestige was all the more engrossing thanks to the excellent visual design. Nolan and his team often excel at creating such environments, as we have seen previously with Gotham City in Batman Begins, and they have clearly excelled with The Prestige.
Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as the competing magicians are perfect - there is not a better duo seen in any movie this year. Their characters play off against each other's flaws and obsessions exquisitely. I can't describe in words how enjoyable it was to watch these two magicians battle it out to see their developments and struggles on both sides. Much of the supporting cast were also strong performers. Michael Caine gave an engrossing performance that breaks far away from his Alfred character in Batman Begins. David Bowie as Nikola Tesla was nearly unbelievable. There is no way anyone can recognize that he is David Bowie, from his voice to his appearance, and yet he also delivers a great performance in his own right. Andy Serkis, the motion-capture actor behind Gollum and King Kong, did a fine job in a rare on-screen role. The only disappointment was Scarlett Johansson, whose character seemed to be thrown in simply to use her looks to pique male viewers' interest and not much more.
The Prestige is an exciting and dazzling film. Christopher Nolan is one of the only filmmakers in Hollywood that can pull this off with such success and in such a meticulous nature. Nearly every performance in this movie was phenomenal, with the wise Michael Caine, unbelievable David Bowie, and incredible duo of Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman standing out the most. Even if you aren't as into magic as much as I was as a kid, The Prestige is still a great film about magicians and magic that is suspenseful and above all entertaining. It has everything a movie needs to be an astounding success and an unforgettable masterpiece.