For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Psychological Thriller Films, here’s a review of The Prestige (2006) by SG of Rhyme and Reason
Thanks again to Diego of Lazy Sunday Movies. for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Gill of WeegieMidget Reviews We will be reviewing our favorite Movies Filmed in (or take place in) Scotland
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Nov by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org Try to think out of the box! Great choice Gill!
Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:
The Prestige (2006)
Audiences marvel when a wonder is onstage;
Each person stands and claps their hands, regardless of their age.
And as the cause of their applause beholds his devotees,
His mind reflects on what is next to prove his expertise.
Magic is a fleeting thrill, and those who learn its ways
Become adept at secrets kept to hold the public’s gaze,
And yet they fear that their career will leave the viewers bored
And ever aim to earn their fame with tricks yet unexplored.
Rivals of themselves and others, each magician will
Experiment till they invent the triumph of their skill.
Yet in this quest to be the best without the need to bluff,
Will this profession of obsession ever be enough?
MPAA rating: PG-13
Christopher Nolan’s fame may be linked mainly to Inception and his Dark Knight trilogy, but The Prestige is a comparably mind-boggling thriller that shouldn’t be overlooked. Set in London in the early 1900s, The Prestige follows Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), two stage magicians who start as collaborators before devolving into rivals and finally mortal enemies.
The film begins with Michael Caine’s symbolic exposition about the three stages of a magic trick: the Pledge (presenting something “ordinary”), the Turn (doing something amazing with it), and the Prestige (the equally amazing payoff). The film itself draws inspiration from that structure, presenting the story in three different time periods: the early days of Borden and Angier’s rivalry, Angier’s journey to Colorado Springs to seek assistance from scientific wizard Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), and the events following Angier’s death, which is blamed on Borden. Laden with flashbacks and scenes whose significance has yet to be revealed, the twisting plot rewards and actually demands careful attention, but it is as Angier’s trick developer or ingénieur Cutter (Caine) states, “You’re not really looking.” Nolan’s fondness for jumping around among three different time periods may leave viewers confused or annoyed, but typically there’s some way to get your bearings, such as a person or object unique to a particular time.
At first, it seems that we are to pick a side, deciding which magician is the more sympathetic. Being more of a fan of Hugh Jackman than of Christian Bale, I immediately leaned toward Angier, especially since he loses his wife early on, a tragedy that kicks off the enmity between the two illusionists. Yet as they both seek revenge, contriving ever more deceitful and extreme ways of one-upping each other, it’s clear that this story has no hero, especially when they both seem callous to the collateral damage around them.
As Cutter mentions, the last part of a trick, the prestige, is always the hardest part, and The Prestige’s prestige is a series of twists on par with Shyamalan at his best. Even if you suspect part of the secret, the reveal will surely effect some surprise. Sometimes a twist ending strains logic too far, but the best kind brings you back to the cleverly placed clues that reveal just how deftly woven the plot and editing were. I can’t help but marvel at the camouflaged foreshadowing that somehow anticipated both magicians’ secrets, proving what a master filmmaker Nolan is. I also liked the inclusion of the parallel real-life rivalry between Tesla and Edison, a story that I hope to see fully realized with its own film someday but gets some intriguing attention here. (I love how that scene with the light bulbs in the ground isn’t all sci-fi; it really happened.)
Beyond the bravura plot, there’s much else to appreciate, particularly the solid performances of Bale, Jackman, and their secondary players. Caine is his usual wise advisor, while Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, and a surprisingly grounded David Bowie offer perfect support. In addition, Nolan brought along team members from his Batman movies, such as Bale and Caine, as well as cinematographer Wally Pfister and editor Lee Smith. The dark but convincing re-creation of London a century ago proves Nolan’s skill even with a period piece and only heightens my anticipation for his take on Dunkirk next year. With its non-linear storyline and complex protagonists, The Prestige is one more example of everything Christopher Nolan does well. The characters may believe a trick worthless once its secret is revealed, but when cinematic magic is this well-executed, it makes the trick even more remarkable.
Best line: (Borden) “The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything.”
© 2016 S.G. Liput
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