The Prestige | Christopher Nolan, 2006
Whenever we see a magic trick, or simply something that we have never seen before we ask our selves how that extraordinary thing could have possibly been done. Most times we eventually forget the trick or just the out come remains embedded in our minds. But what if that little inner question turns into a quest to find the truth, and eventually becomes an obsession?
Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (based on a novel of the same name by Christopher Priest) takes this subject. The story is about two young magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), in the 1800s trying to make it big. One day, after a tragic accident they develop a rivalry that will lead them to try to out do one another. One day, after Borden reveals his ultimate trick, Angier goes through great lenghts to try to replicate and improve Borden’s illusion.
This is one of those rare movies where everything meshes perfectly to create a great viewing experience. The acting, the directing, the cinematography, the writing, the sets, costumes, etc, all aid to elevate the story of two rivals to an edge-of-your-seat thriller, as well as a character study.
Jackman and Bale deliver their best performances to date. Jackman’s anger and obessesion is clear and he doesn’t over do it. Meanwhile Bale does a nice job of portraying who is mostly cool and calm but when the time comes to let go, he is convincing. Michael Cain is great as usual as Cutter, an illusion designer and mentor to both magicians. Then there’s Scarlett Johansson, doing the best she can with the role. Her performance is not great, but it does what is required. Then there are David Bowie and Andy Serkis in two small roles as the people that finally replicate Borden’s illusion for Angier.
Nolan’s work here is also great. This is indeed a visual piece, but under any other director the visual would have overpowered the story. Because of him, the performances are as good as they are, and the story makes the impact that it does. Also, the costumes and sets are top-notch (the latter deservedly getting an Oscar nom). Then there’s Wally Pfister’s cinematography. His work here is easily among the top 5 of the decade.
Thanks to an incredible production, The Prestige is better than other movies with similar stories (I’m looking at you The Illusionist). Movies like these, where every thing comes together perfectly, are rare, and hopefully Mr. Nolan can continue to provide us with movies like these when he’s not making Batman movies.