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Non-Review Review: The Prestige

Last week we caught The Prestige on Network 2. It’s a breath-taking movie that tends to get lost among 2006’s other magic-themed outings (Scoop and The Illusionist). A well-crafted magical treat, I think that the film might be Nolan’s most well-crafted to date. And – a little to my surprise, I must admit – my girlfriend enjoyed it as well.

"Are you watching closely?"

"Are you watching closely?"

There’s really little I can talk about without spoiling some element of the delightfully twisty film. All I can reveal is that the plot involves two competing magicians, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. The two actors are fantastic, making full-blown characters out of what would be two-dimensional objects in the hands of lesser actors. The support that has been lined up behind them is equally impressive. Michael Caine gets better with age, Rebecca Hall is criminally under-rated despite being awesome and Scarlett Johansson works better as a supporting actress here than she does as a lead. David Bowie and Andy Serkis steal every scene they appear in (Bowie really is a superb actor, though his choice in roles is normally less so – here’s it’s a great performance in a great film).

Nolan uses his own natural knack of careful construction and smack-bang reveals. What’s astounding is how well the film hangs together on repeat viewing. Like the duelling illusionists at work here, you may feel the need to watch it again to see if you can catch the slight-of-hand. Unlike The Dark Knight (which threatens to collapse under its own momentum), The Prestige is carefully and painstakingly constructed so that absolutely every cog rotates as necessary. The only catch is that the movie can seem cold and clinical, but the actors keep it above that – mostly.

The film brilliantly manages to waltz across a whole range of cinematic genres and is difficult to pigeon-hole. While I laud that, I can understand why some viewers may be put off that they didn’t get exactly what they pay for. Still, anyone with an open mind should at least be entertained. It lacks the passion and the energy that propelled The Dark Knight, but The Prestige is arguably a better, if less honest, film. I’ll end on a quote from the film that hopefully doesn’t give too much away. God, I love the film-as-magic metaphor thing this movie got going on.

You never understood, why we did this. The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It’s miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you… then you got to see something really special… you really don’t know?… it was… it was the look on their faces…

– Robert Angiers

My recommendation is to see it. And if you’ve seen it, see it again.

8 Responses

  1. […] that were popular a few years back, starring Hugh Jackman (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Prestige) and Ewan McGregor (the Star Wars prequels, Moulin Rouge, Trainspotting, Down with Love). […]

  2. […] Eastwood could forgt how to direct drama. Nolan’s record (Momento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight) stands to him, and at least gives him the benefit of the doubt. I’m looking […]

  3. […] Platt (The West Wing), Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest, Moon), Toby Jones (The Mist, W.), Rebecca Hall (The Prestige, Vicky Christina Barcelona) and Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks, Pride & Prejudice). It was released […]

  4. […] (Heat, Collateral). It stars Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd, Ed Wood), Christian Bale (Batman Begins, The Prestige), Billy Crudup (Watchmen, Almost Famous), Stephen Dorff (Blade, Cecille B. Demented), Rory Cochrane […]

  5. […] The Dark Knight is directed by Christopher Nolan (The Prestige, Memento). It stars Christian Bale (Batman Begins, Public Enemies), Gary Oldman (Sid and Nancy, The […]

  6. […] Batman Begins is directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Prestige) and reboots the Batman franchise after the disastrous Batman & Robin. It stars Christain Bale […]

  7. Just discovered your superb blog, as I wrote earlier tonight.

    I seem to be in the overwhelming minority in absolutely believing The Prestige is about a master magician who raised up two sets of twins to pull off the illusion of the century, and all the rest (including and especially the oh-so-public “rivalry”) is sleight of hand.

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