The Prestige Reviews
Mystery 30% Thriller 30% Drama 20%
Action 10% Adventure 10%
Angier starts performing with the sobriquet "The Great Danton" with Cutter (Michael Caine) as his illusion engineer, while Borden with the stage name "The Professor" with Fellon as his engineer. Angier is an adept showman, but lacks the technical prowess. On the contrary, Borden is highly skillful, but lacks the taste for grandeur and showmanship. Each regards the other as his only obstacle (owing to their bitterly intertwined past) and this starts a series of events in which each tries to stymie the other by any means possible (sabotage, abduction, incrimination and even killings). Awed by the apparent genuineness of Borden's version of "The Transported Man" and inveigled by Borden's deliberate misdirection, Angier travels miles and spends a fortune to approach an ingenious scientist named Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) in order to cajole him into building a machine for him (a machine that could help him outperform Borden). Nikola Tesla is an apostle of Alternating Current (and rightly thinks it to be superior to Direct Current), and is under immense pressure imparted by Thomas Edison (ruthless advocator of Direct Current) and his men, who are after Tesla. As Edison's men close in on him, Tesla runs out of time and hence funds for his research and is forced to oblige Angier, who is his very last client. Tesla flees the scene shortly after fulfilling his promise to Angier (not without leaving him a strong note of caution against the use of his invention), whose ever increasing skepticism in Tesla is placated by the efficacy of his masterful invention. Using Tesla's machine, Angier introduces his own version of "The Transported Man", which becomes an instant success, but in lieu of a terrible self-sacrifice (that Angier has to make every night while performing). As the story culminates, the viewer is startled with many revelations including the mental and physical torments that Borden's complex character undergoes owing to his total devotion towards his art.
The success of an act of illusion solely depends upon the deftness with which its three parts viz. the Pledge, the Turn, and the Prestige are performed. Similarly, for a movie to be a success, its three main aspects i.e. screenplay, direction, and acting are ought to be top-notch. Christopher Nolan incredibly manages to strike all the right cords with The Prestige. His riveting maneuvers coupled with his ingenious auteur skills aggrandize the brilliance of the movie ten-fold. Nolan succeeds in having a dream assemblage of actors with almost everyone giving a memorable performance. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are superb in their lead roles. Michael Caine shines in his low-key portrayal of Cutter, an ordinary part made to appear extraordinary through sheer brilliance; vintage Caine. David Bowie as Nikola Tesla and Andy Serkis (Gollum of LOTR) as Alley (Tesla's assistant) are stupendous in their cameos. Scarlet Johansson also manages to give a scintillating portrayal as Borden's paramour, Olivia.
The movie is a roller-coaster of a ride with intriguingly intertwined subplots and masterful time switching, which makes it one of a kind and an ultimate masterpiece. The uncanny feat of Nolan to manifest a motion picture, which forays the realms of Mystery, Thrill, Sci-fi and Fantasy, is truly exemplary and makes the movie a contemporary classic. The movie is a tapestry of twists and turns, which evinces its overwhelming potential to bewitch the masses and satiate even the most esoteric viewers. The questions that it incessantly asks of the viewers can only be answered after repetitive viewings, with each viewing seeking utmost attention of the viewer. The only question that I would ask of the viewer is: "Are you watching closely?"
A must watch for anyone, who has nothing against giving his mind a rigorous exercise and his body an adrenaline rush. 10/10
The Prestige is intriguing and clever, built on a solid, full of twists script and reinforced by great acting performances.
At the turn of the 19th century, celebrated stage magician Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) is accused of the murder of Julia McCullough, the wife of his partner Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman). Her death happened during a magic trick but Angier puts the blame solely on Borden. As a result, the pair become rivals and a bitter feud takes place between them as they try to sabotage each others tricks with dangerous consequences.
As the film opens, we are informed that every magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge" where the magician shows you something ordinary. The second act is called "The Turn" where the magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary (like disappear). But making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part that's called "The Prestige". And so the stage is set for Nolan's stylish and elaborate sleight of hand. He adheres to this magicians three act rule in the films structure but it's the hardest act (and the one that shares the film's title) that actually undoes the whole affair.
In saying this, it would suggest the film is let down solely by it's reveal. It's not. From the outset the film is very slow and tedium sets in very early. I don't have a problem with slow builds and I'm actually very fond of a good magic trick. Nolan's premise is very enticing and having two warring magicians play against each other should make for gripping entertainment. Only it doesn't. It's a laborious and excruciatingly dull endeavour which is very surprising considering it has Nolan in charge.
With films of this kind, you know there will be an attempt to pull the rug from under your feet. That's a given and given Nolan's track record of being more than able to deliver a good twist you expect that you're in safe hands. However, it reaches a point where it's just one preposterous plot twist after another with the ultimate misgiving being that Nolan doesn't capture a sense of wonder. It's difficult to accept the plot developments when you know that it's all just elaborately staged for the sake of it. It's like trying to convince the viewer that CGI is actually real. There's no way your going buy it and this film is as similarly unacceptable as that preposterous proposal. As for the final reveal, when it actually happens, it just stinks. It's a ludicrous revelation that's so tenuous that it's practically impossible to work it out and left me with feelings of frustration. Maybe this was Nolan's intentions all along but, to me, it felt like a con.
Granted, Nolan has a good eye for the period and his regular cinematographer Wally Pfister does some beautiful work in capturing the Victorian era amidst Nathan Crowley's impressive production design. To the eye, it certainly looks the part but really the appearance is all smoke and mirrors. There's really no consistency underneath it all.
Even having the charismatic leads in Bale and Jackman should work in it's favour but the film never really knows who to fully focus on at any given time leaving the development of their relationship - and their own identities - a bit of a muddle. It's hard to know which one to root for as their character arcs are continually blurred and messily delivered.
From what I can gather, I'm in the minority with this one. Many critics and viewers have lavished nothing but praise on it but I fail to see what the attraction is. As I've said, the three act structure is undoubtedly on show; we are offered the "pledge" and it delivers the "turn" but Nolan's reveal simply doesn't work, leaving the final product lacking the "prestige". Which doesn't say very much for a film that can't even live up to its own title.