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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What "The Prestige" does very well is recreate a period of show
business history near the turn of the century in which competition
between magicians was serious and intense. The workings of the
complicated illusions are gorgeously brought to life via smartly
detailed apparatus that replicate the actual mechanics of Victorian
Much of the film rings very true, such as the all-consuming obsessions of the lead characters to be the best and outdo all others. It's an easy step to accept that such unwavering determination spills over into deadly territory, as rival magicians suave Rupert Angier (a riveting performance by Hugh Jackman) and audacious Alfred Borden (Christian Bale effortlessly playing a brooding lower-class Brit) each seek to wreak continuing revenge upon the other.
The story, though adapted from a novel, feels like a perfect fit for director Nolan's sensibilities, as the machinations of the two men become increasingly convoluted during a back-and-forth tug of wits that keeps you guessing in the style of Nolan's "Memento." As the game grows increasingly deadly, and threatens to consume all they love, the film becomes a fascinating study in single-mindedness.
The work is epic in sweep, beautifully filmed, and strongly acted. The only odd note in casting is David Bowie as Nikola Tesla (he looks nothing like the actual Tesla, if you care about these sort of things, and his appearance calls attention to itself as superstar casting often does), but Mr. Bowie holds his own. Solid performances are all around, with Michael Caine adding dignity and depth as the old master, Scarlett Johanssen as the as the lovely stage assistant who becomes the third point in a twisted love triangle, and even Andy Serkis (Gollum!) in a memorable supporting role.
The introduction of Tesla adds yet another twist, as the film shifts from real-but-possible stage illusion to steam-punkish sci-fi. This transition is a hard note to pull off, since the beginning of the film doesn't quite suggest such a direction, but if you're willing to let Nolan lead you on the journey into increasingly fantastic realms, the narrative rewards you with thought-provoking moral and dramatic exploration of the issues raised.
A truly entertaining movie, and an original, unusual, dark ride -- well worth seeing in a theater for its grand scope and vision.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Christopher Nolan can do no wrong. Teaming up again with his Batman Begins cast of Christian Bale and Michael Caine, and joined with the Scoop team consisting of X-Men's Wolverinie Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson, the stellar (eye candy) cast already set tongues wagging as to whether they'll be able to live up to the hype of Nolan's long awaited movie directly challenging the other picture about Victorian magicians, The Illusionist. The Prestige is the third act of any magic trick, with the first and second acts being the Pledge and the Turn. And this movie lives up to its namesake to a T. The way the movie plays out, it's like a huge magic trick, with the audience waiting to see how it unfolds, getting the suspicion on how it's done, but yet sitting through it thorough engaged to discover how everything will be revealed and resolved. It tells the story of how two magicians, fellow apprentices turned unfortunate rivals, plod down the slow path of jealous obsession, revenge, and the deliberate attempts to go at lengths to steal each other's ideas, to go one up against the other, a fight in romance, life and the long held passionate drive to discredit each other. There are perfect explanations of the value of secrets, and how secrets can sometimes be used as tools for deceit. What I thought was valuable in the movie was the reinforcement of the notion of how "magic" actually worked. Besides the better understanding of the common body of scientific knowledge, things like having pretty assistants to distract, and having planted staff amongst the audience, somehow made me a sceptic to tricks and illusions, and try harder to spot at which stage had things undergone a sleight of hand. More importantly, it introduced me to the notion and importance of a loyal engineer behind the scenes who designs elaborate contraptions solely for the magician's use, and how having disloyal staff can indeed be detrimental to any leaks of secrets. And Michael Caine took on this engineering role as Cutter, responsible for assisting Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) with loyalty and conviction that they could, as a team, beat Christian Bale's Alfred Borden. I thought the cast in general were superb, with Christian Bale leading the charge. Hugh Jackman too showed that he could play a dark character, as the two leads tackled their characters' theme of sacrifice, arrogance, and ultimately redemption, especially for Rupert Angier. I thought he did what he did towards the end was a kind of penance to what happened in the beginning, hoping to kill two birds with a single stone, to exact the sweetest revenge he could possibly muster. What also was intriguing about the two lead characters was that there is no right or wrong, no hero or villain. It's always a shade of grey in what they do, and for Alfred Borden, I felt it's more for survival and the provision for family, which is a strong subplot running through the film. I just have to mention though, that Scarlett Johansson being Esquire's Sexiest Woman Alive, gets to play a flower vase role here as a magician's assistant, though her role as the pawn between the rivals added a little gravitas. The atmosphere was set up great, and so were the costumes and sets. The soundtrack was hauntingly mesmerizing, capturing the look and mood appropriately. Look out too for David Bowie's appearance as a Serbian scientist! I was floored by the deftness of how Nolan weaved and juxtaposed the non linear narrative so flawlessly. While the usual techniques is to use placeholders, or flashback sequences, colours etc, here, time is so fluid, but yet the audience will know precisely which era they're in, without being explicitly told, or working too much of the noodle. You just know, and it's just that feeling of being totally transparent with time. Even though the movie clocked in at slightly more than 2 hours, you don't feel its length at all. At the end of the movie, one quote popped into mind: Misdirection - what the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes. Quite apt to describe how things work out during the movie, or to describe in general, Nolan 's films so far. That added richness to lift the movie to a superior plane. Do yourself a favour, if there's one movie you absolutely must watch this week, then Prestige must be your natural choice. It's smart in delivery and slick in presentation. There is none other. P.S. Is it just me, or are notebooks a common feature in Nolan's movies?
I went to see a critics preview of The Prestige this afternoon and to my surprise I found the film to be one of the best I have seen all year so far, and that writers can come up with an excellent script it they would only try a little harder. The acting performances by Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine were the best I have see in a long while. The only objection I had to the film was that it was a little long, but once you leave the theater you will discuss the film and it many twists and turns. My wife and myself discussed it all the way home from the movie theater. This is a winner and should be up for some academy award statues, and my recommendation is go see this as soon as you can, you will not be disappointed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I couldn't help myself. I just kept saying "wow, what a beautifully
crafted film," all the way home, and around my house when I arrived
home. I have not been so captured and entertained in a long time. I was
especially enamored with the screen writing and how tightly and
beautifully the visual metaphors tied in with the writing, and with the
impact of the human message about obsession, competition and
retribution carried to the extreme.
One can relate to this personal human struggle for victory over another at all costs on a much grander scale, as the two magicians could easily be symbolic of how leaders of countries come to blows with each other, at the expense of their women and children -- something we struggle with right now in our world. There are deeper layers of this film that will be uncovered over time.
Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Sir Michael Caine all contributed stunning, emotional performances. Rebecca Hall, who played Sarah to Bale's Alfred Borden, turned in a highly charged performance as well, making Scarlett Johansson's Olivia flat in comparison. And although some people thought the plot line a bit tedious, I found it to be refreshingly complex and engaging, while not being so complex as to lose you. If you can't follow this one, you've been watching television too long. And who cares if the illusions are mundane or scientifically unbelievable? Isn't that what both movies and illusions ask us to do? To suspend disbelief? Meantime, there's a message in its madness. Hello.
The film is visually moody and evocative, easily transporting you into the time period. What more could you ask for? A film is a visual medium and this one is a visual ten. The acting is superb as well as the plot. It keeps you interested; it keeps you guessing right to the shocking but most appropriate end.
It asks you, what is one willing to sacrifice for the "prestige?"
I think this one's an Oscar definite.
What makes this movie so incredible is that while it is indeed a movie
about magicians (or illusionists) it is also a complex character study
about how self destructive obsessions are with a sideline love story
and a sci-fi twist. A unique plot with an amazing cast--any of whom
could believably garner an Oscar nomination. Christian Bale was amazing
in one of his rare cockney performances. We already know from Kate and
Leopold how well Hugh Jackman plays a distinguished English gent. He's
absolutely priceless. Is there any point in discussing Sir Michael
Caine? He brings polish to the movie.
This is the kind of flick that you can discuss for weeks after. The plot is so detailed and complete and open to interpretation. My friend and I have been discussing various nuances of this film for the past 3 weeks. It definitely stays with you.
I have to say this is one of the best movies i have seen this year, i
was not expecting it to be that good. There's twist after twist, and
when you think there is no more, there will be. Great performances and
ever better plot. I highly recommend this movie to all ages.
New idea for a movie, and they succeeded it at it greatly. It will have you thinking every time you see a magician on TV!
i had to give this movie a 10/10, and i only have 4 movies that i would rate that way in my life time. If there is anything you do this year, make it a trip to watch this movie!
I hope you enjoy it as much as i did.
The Prestige. I am impressed. I am a HUGE fan of Hugh Jackman and
bought the book as soon as I heard he would be in this movie. I read it
and enjoyed it, but wasn't especially fond of it. But I still had been
really looking forward to this movie.
I went to the first showing opening day (Friday, Oct. 20th) with 2 friends and sat a row behind them, alone, to enjoy it peacefully. I loved it all.
Christopher Nolan really has a gift at directing. The way the movie cuts back and forth between different places and times is clever. Although some might be confused or left stupefied, others will be happy and glorified. The movie will keep you guessing the whole time until the very end. The script, acting, settings, props, everything was so well-done.
Hugh Jackman was excellent as the angry, obsessive magician trying to gain back his life by revenge. Christian Bale was equally impressive as the mystifying, secretive showman, never letting out his secrets until necessary. Michael Caine rocked in supporting everyone else's parts with his curiosity. The rest of the cast rounded out nicely and helped out where need be. I really recommend this movie to a sophisticated audience who doesn't mind a long, mysterious movie.
And man, what an ending.
The Prestige is a masterful exercise in storytelling with superb
direction and powerful performances by a grand ensemble cast. From set
and production design to cinematography, from script to presentation,
Christopher Nolan has once again demonstrated why he is one of the film
world's brightest up and coming directors. The Prestige only helps
solidify his standing as one of the landmark directors of his
Told in a narrative that jumps between various points along its time line, playing out like a magic act itself, the story is that of two magicians on the rise in their careers. The first -- played by Christian Bale -- is an expert in understanding the fundamentals of any trick, but lacks showmanship. The second -- played by Hugh Jackman -- is a master showman who is more entertaining than technical. A tragic series of events pits the two performers against each other in a battle of wits that spirals further and further out of control, consuming both of them and everything and everyone they care about.
With a story that requires actors with a great deal of emotive range, Nolan has assembled what could be described as a dream cast. Both Bale and Jackman suit their respective roles perfectly, and pitting these two performers against each other was a stroke of casting genius. Michael Caine takes what could have been a forgettable role by any lesser actor and elevates it with his demanding screen presence. Probably the most surprising performance comes from David Bowie whose unforgettable turn as master physicist Nikola Tesla absolutely shines. Add Andy Serkis to the mix, and what is assembled is a group of performers who know how to fully engage the audience.
The Prestige is hard to pigeonhole into any specific genre as it walks the fine line between mystery, drama, suspense and fantasy. In that, the story becomes a never-ending stream of wonder for the mind: one can never tell exactly where the story is going to lead next, becoming more and more as time goes on. This gives Christopher Nolan ample opportunity to play. And play he does. With narration by several characters, each adding their own viewpoint to the events, and with a direction that moves between time to mystify and distract, the end result is a climax that itself is a series of puzzles that each unravel beautifully.
The only major criticisms that can be leveled at the Prestige are a confusing play with the seasons during Tesla's introduction (winter suddenly becomes spring/summer and back again) and a strange choice of music for the closing credits (a pop song at the end of a film such as this seems tacky). However, neither is significant enough of a problem to warrant any need to avoid the film at all.
In the end, the Prestige is a fantastic display of what can be accomplished when you bring together superior talent. It is certainly worth the price of admission and as good as any magic show you are to come across.
This was the best movie I have seen in at least the past two years. Most movies have me leave the theater feeling like I wasted 8 dollars or so. So many movies lately have left me feeling like I wasted away precious hors of my life that could have been spent doing better things. Yet this movie was truly a masterpiece and kept me guessing the whole time. The acting was superb and so was the plot. I usually can predict the outcomes of movies pretty early on. And usually I can see the twist the writer planned. With this movie I was still left wondering into the last 5 minutes of the movie. I can't wait to own this on DVD.
Director Christopher Nolan has a proclivity for warped narratives
(Memento) and in The Prestige he serves up a deliciously twisty tale,
puffed full of magic theatricality and inventive cinematic devices.
With his remarkably sleight-of-hand direction, he spins the tale of two
rivaling magicians in Victorian-era London, creating a cerebrally
stimulating 2 hour long mise-en-scene in which the audience is
literally left guessing and gasping at its rare uniqueness through
magic acts and bitter behind-the-stage intrigue.
The final pay-off of any magic act the prestige is of the essence, and preluding it is the pledge, followed by the turn. Together these three key components are slotted in unique positions in 'The Prestige's arrestingly clever script but it is the titular act that propels the film. The pledge introduces our main characters: magicians Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) in turn-of-the-century London and we see how their friendship abruptly becomes a fully-fledged rivalry and hostility with a magic act gone horribly wrong in front of an audience. There is a death, and it lights the fuse of an onslaught of reel revelations and the one-upmanship that will ensue between the two competitors. 'The turn' comes to offers twists by the bucketload in the form of love-interests, and technologically marvelous magic acts. I gasped, I scratched my head, I watched on in awe. No description will do it justice.
The prestige as the end note to the show in which, for example, the disappearer reappears to the deafening applause of the crowd is so meticulously composed in the film through foreshadowing and fractured chronology that rigorously intersects, intertwines, intercuts, fast-forwards, rewinds and replays key parts of the story that the whole spectacle floors you. Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan have worked out a template script that is more twisty and turny than a mountain road and for that reason I am very reluctant to spoil even the slightest detail of the story of 'The Prestige' of all of its acts, in fact. If you are shaking your head thinking a clever twist ending does not make the movie (and I agree), know that this is not a "gotcha"-kind of Shyamalan trick where you want to stop the film, rewind it and watch it meticulous foreshadowing up to the cheap pay-off, but a tightly-written ever-shifting hall of mirrors with so many intrinsic twists that on your way home you will still be scratching you head and searching for clues.
Our two magicians are perfectly-cast with Hugh Jackman capturing the showy, slick, ambition-driven nature of his character Angier in contrast to Bale's technique-driven purist who may be well on his way to perfecting the craft, but lacks the 'Abracadabra' entertainment value. I had always crowned the latter the more capable actor of the two, but the fact is that Jackman performs just as well in the film. Having said that, Borden has more layers to his complex, contradictory (keyword) persona than the flashy, greedy Angier which perhaps begs more weight from the actor behind the role, shifting more demand on Christian Bale. The sad fact of it is that neither of these two men are likable characters and elicit nothing more than temporary sympathy. However, the secrecy with which the intricate story approaches them makes it impossible for the viewer to slot them in protagonist vs. antagonist positions, and indeed they are given almost the exact same screen-time and voice-over narration throughout, a subtle and brilliant accolade of Nolan's.
To further evaluate the cast of The Prestige, David Bowie and Michael Caine undoubtedly merit a great deal of praise for supporting the two moody, unlikeable leading men. It is a crying shame then that Scarlett Johansson always an incapable actress except for the rare occasions in which she plays a sultry American vixen (Match Point) performs so badly in the role of Olivia Wenscombe, a magic assistant pending between Borden and Angier. Here she is actually given a very good and important character who is not necessarily bad like the rest, but botches her interpretation by giving an unspeakably hammy London accent. Nolan picks up on her shortcomings as an actress, and resorts to boob-shots en masse. This he should be fully entitled to do as a director, for a beautiful diversion will always camouflage the process and any of its potential missteps, as Michael Caine's character puts forward.
With Scarlett as a pleasurable paint-job, twists by the bucket-load and flashy magic tricks as windowdressing to a solid mystery film, there is little or no need to delve deeper into the psyches of its characters to keep our attention. Yet this is done, and superbly so, by Christopher Nolan. 'Antihero' gets a whole new spin to it in The Prestige with two friends-turned-rivals so bitterly poised on the brink of obsession of outshining the other that succeeding with the ultimate 'prestige' of magic followed by applause is enough to drive them to murder, bankruptcy, deceit and sabotage. Borden simply wants to be better on a technical level, while Angier wants the public's recognition and wide-spread fame. Their ambition is in effect largely the same: create the definitive deceptive illusion and do it through any means necessary.
'The Prestige' is a majestic film that nevertheless spans across too long a running time. Condensation would have done wonders and surely bumped it up a notch, as would underpinning some humour at one or two points (it is VERY gloomy), but it truly is a great cinematic achievement and a shoe-in for my top 10 of 1006, and easily the most inventive film I have seen in years. I am eagerly anticipated director Christopher Nolan's next sleight-of-hand direction, and it looks like the closest is The Dark Knight (2008).
9 out of 10
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