This evening my best friend and I made a thirty mile trek to Columbia to see The Prestige (it wasn't showing here in Randolph County), through pouring rain and fighting the traffic from Mizzou's homecoming game (we won). And it was worth it.
The Prestige centres around two stage magicians, Rupert Angier (aka "The Great Danton," played by Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (aka "The Professor"), who are locked in an increasingly dangerous rivalry over a number of years in late Victorian England. The movie unfolds like a good novel, taking its time to reveal its secrets. It also unfolds much like its subject matter, a good magic trick. As Cutter (the engineer who builds devices for magicians, played by Michael Caine) explains in the opening of the movie, every great magic trick has three acts: the Pledge (in which the magician shows the audience something utterly ordinary), the Turn (in which the magician makes that something ordinary do something extraordinary), and the Prestige (which is the part with twists and turns, in which lives hang in the balance, and the magician shows the audience something shocking). The Prestige begins much like any ordinary movie, but director Christopher Nolan swiftly turns it into something extraordinary, and in the end lives do hang in the balance in The Prestige. This is a complex film with several twist and turns and several surprises. Like any good magician, Nolan is a master of misdirection.
Besides Nolan's direction, much of the responsibility for the quality of The Prestige rests with the film's script (written by the director's brother Jonathan and himself). The screenplay is wonderfully complex. Beyond the aforementioned twists and turns, it jumps backward and forward in time with ease. Yet, at the same time, I don't think the average viewer would find the movie the least bit confusing (although he or she will find himself or herself pondering what is real and what is illusion, as in any good magic trick).
The movie is aided greatly by perfect casting. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are well cast as the two illusionists obsessed with oneupmanship. Michael Caine is perfect as Cutter, the older engineer who knows more about magic than most magicians. One of the best performances is given by David Bowie, virtually unrecognisable as inventor Nikola Tesla (yes, that Nikola Tesla). From what I have read of Tesla (which is a good deal, actually), Bowie's performance is dead on (even though he does not resemble the historic Tesla very much). Even Scarlett Johansson is convincing as Olivia, the woman who would serve as assistant to both men in succession.
The Prestige is a complex film with realistic, complicated characters. It has beautiful cinematography. And its theme of obsession and its impact on human lives is thought provoking. I would recommend this movie to anyone who loves good movies and loves quite a few twists and turns in their films.
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