The Prestige Reviews
Given that it's a Nolan film though, and that the subject matter is magic, illusion, and trickery, you can expect this film to not be straight forward or clear cut. I absolutely loved this when I first saw it, giving it 4 1/2 stars. Like Inception, I'm revisiting it, and I'm docking it, since it has lost some of its inital impact and wow factor, but I'm far less impressed with this one compared to the other. In fact, this might actually be one of his weaker films, at least in my opinion. Yeah, most people give that distinction to Insomnia, but that one doesn't really infuriate me like this does, mostly because I had ambiguity and trickery, and twist upon twist for the sake of it. I say that, and I love Inception, but that sort of thing didn't feel focred. Yeah, it was convoluted, but this is more so, and it sticks out here as really being forced due to the magic angle. I really should have expected this, but my original viewing was at a time before I'd really gone through all sorts of changes, and my tastes and views weren't as they are now.
I do dig this film, but the endings are an issue, well, one of them (the Jackman one). Didn't really accept that one so much this time. The other is fine, and I dig it, but it really felt like Nolan was being twisty and screwing around for the sake of it here, and it fell flat. I still like this movie though, as it is pretty well crafted, but it just overdoes things...too much, too often.
It's made clear from the beginning that this movie isn't about magic tricks. The screenwriter doesn't toy with the supernatural elements but cleverly invests most of the plot in character development. Director Christopher Nolan helmed this film after Batman Begins but right before The Dark Knight, so he had already set a tone for himself as a film maker by the tone at this time. This, to me, feels a lot like a 19th century Inception. What makes this film engaging to watch is seeing the rival magicians trying to outsmart each other. Christopher Nolan brilliantly balances his multiple time periods in this (much like Inception) so that a wary viewer won't get confused but is still in for a surprise in the end when the final card is laid on the table. He manages to juggle multiple subplots as well as mold the character psychology into the execution of the story, which in another's hands would become disjointed. The camerawork is purposefully shaky and the cinematography purposefully dark as to illuminate the story's tone and conflict.
The film is bolstered by powerful performances from its leading cast, who carry a lot of the weight here. It's Jackman in particular who holds the viewers' attention, managing to inject just the right amount of borderline psychosis that his character needs. The little exposition that there is in the story is mostly left up to him, as Bale's perspective is purposefully kept in the dark due to plot demands. He's not only easy to watch but riveting in his role as a man driven to madness by obsession, idiosyncratic in his performance and chilling as an afterthought. This is possibly the most psychologically dark performance he's given, which according to Hollywood is puberty for actors.
Gripping, disturbing, and with just the right amount of narrative complexity, The Prestige proves to be a thrilling and unique period piece that racks up another cinematic success for Christopher Nolan.