The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige is an intelligent character-drama that boasts entertaining magic realism as well as heartfelt drama.

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Left to right: Christian Bale as “Borden” and Hugh Jackman as “Angier”

The Prestige transports us to 1900s London, where curious, ecstatic people come to magic shows to experience something mind-boggling and worthwhile from talented magicians. Inspired by the dream to become great magicians, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) serve as apprentices to a celebrated magician, so they can someday become great magicians themselves. Both men love magic, but differ in opinion on how magicians should prepare and perform on stage.

On one unfortunate night at a performance, an accident happens that leads to Angier and Borden beginning a professional rivalry—in which, both try to outwit one another and sabotage each other’s performances. As the two continue with their respective careers and interfere with each other’s performances, they both arrive at a startling conclusion: Have I been watching closely?

Based on the book by Christopher Priest, The Prestige is the fifth film in Christopher Nolan’s celebrated filmography. Nolan, who co-wrote the script with frequent collaborator/brother Jonathan Nolan, directed this film and brought Priest’s award-winning novel to the big screen. Unsurprisingly, Nolan delivers one of his best cerebral movies yet. The talented filmmaker has brought thought-provoking films to the big screen before, with Memento and Insomnia being his most revered work. With The Prestige, the Nolan brothers produce an intelligent character-drama that boasts entertaining magic realism as well as heartfelt drama.

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Director Christopher Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister showcase several entertaining magical performances onscreen. Not only do they authentically present all the magic tricks with practical effects, they also do a great job of capturing the larger-than-life elements with visual effects. This production called for a lot of preparation and precision, which in this case, Nolan and his crew successfully flaunted their skills in presenting this world through excellent costume design, production design, and well-handled practical/special effects. As a result, viewers will marvel at all the set pieces shown in The Prestige.

In the film, magic realism and heartfelt drama create an interesting juxtaposition as the film rolls along. At first, the surreal elements of The Prestige may come across as being over-the-top or out of genre, but with the inclusion of the character drama between the rival magicians, the film succeeds at presenting a resonant human drama with larger-than-life themes.

Aside from the great direction, cinematography, and character drama, the best thing about The Prestige is arguably its screenplay. The Nolan brothers present the proceedings in a nonlinear fashion. By doing this, they interweave past and present events throughout the film. As a result, the Nolan brothers successfully tie up the big plot points together to make a cohesive whole. Some of the scenes call for viewers to watch closely (no pun intended) to perceive what period of time they’re looking at. This isn’t to say that the nonlinear plot confuses people. However, for those who don’t pay attention to what is happening may become confused—given that the Nolan brothers’ screenplay, in some instances, quickly varies from past to present within a short amount of time. Nevertheless, The Prestige is a more interesting movie because of its plot structure, giving viewers interesting character tidbits and shocking revelations as the film progresses.

Performances are great, with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman leading the charge. The two actors have proven themselves capable as leading men and does so again in The Prestige. As Borden, Bale conveys Borden’s stubborn, ambitious, brazen, and slightly unhinged personality with excellence. Some aspects of Borden’s character may come across as over-the-top but, with Bale in the role, he ensures that Borden is more than just a complex human being, he’s also a sympathetic, talented magician with a continuing passion to be the best. Similarly, Jackman delivers a respectable performance as Angier. As the character, Jackman successfully conveys Angier’s growing obsessions and determination to outperform Borden. With Jackman in the role, he makes Angier’s motivations very clear to a point where many viewers may sympathize with Angier’s immoral goals.

Rounding out the supporting cast are actors Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, David Bowie, and Andy Serkis. All actors bring gravitas and authenticity to their respective roles, successfully embodying their 19th century characters. Caine, Hall, and Johansson play well off Bale and Jackman, while Bowie and Serkis manage to deliver solid performances, despite their limited screen time. All actors in The Prestige, coupled with the visual spectacle, keep the film entertaining from beginning to end.

 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

 

Images from:

  1. First Image: Subscene
  2. Second Image: Cinemablend
  3. Third Image: FilmGrab
  4. Fourth Image: Taylor Holmes Inc

 

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