Movie Review: 'The Prestige' is a Christopher Nolan magic trick

While researching my article on film director Christopher Nolan I decided to revisit and review his 2006 film, ‘The Prestige’.

Sandwiched between the release of the first two installments of his highly-praised Batman trilogy, ‘The Prestige’ is a film about the dark hearts of men and the lengths to which they will go to satisfy their obsessions. The film was written by the film’s director, Christopher Nolan along with Jonathan Nolan and was based on a novel by Christopher Priest.

The story focuses on two competing magicians at the end of the Nineteenth century. Sounds pretty dull, right?

To dismiss this film as a movie simply about turn of the century warring illusionists would be a mistake.

Director Nolan crafted a film that reveals the primal depths of deceit and manipulation that people can be capable of exacting upon each other.

His primary characters of Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (frequent collaborator Christian Bale) were so singular of purpose in their pursuits of mastering the ‘transported man’ illusion that we are transported ourselves into the very heart of obsession and dark desire.

Angier (Jackman) and Borden (Bale) were introduced as internist magicians/entertainers coached under the film’s moral center, Cutter (Michael Caine). What began as a testy competitive relationship between the two young up-and-coming magicians quickly sours irrevocably when Borden’s ego muddies his judgment in a split second decision that ended with fatal consequences.

From that point forward, we witness how a person’s very moral fiber itself can be willfully unraveled at the promise of revenge, glory, and self righteousness. The performances of Bale, Jackman, and Caine are thoroughly compelling and masterful. There are also solid performances from Scarlett Johansson (Olivia), David Bowie (Nikola Tesla), and Rebecca Hall (Sarah Borden).

The cinematography by Wally Pfister was gorgeous and was perfectly accentuated by the production design by Nathan Crowley, costume design and sets, and original music by David Julyan.

Like two noted examples of Nolan’s other films (Inception, Memento) ‘The Prestige’ has so much subtext in its storyline that it is truly an intelligent film experience and may even prove more enjoyable in discussion and from multiple viewings.

Intelligent and thought provoking storytelling, terrific performances, beautifully rendered production values, and will keep you guessing from start to finish; ‘The Prestige’ delivers a unique experience that turned a story about competing magicians into an examination into the very nature of obsession.

Abracadabra.

 

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