The Prestige is one hell of a movie. It’s one of the extremely few movie this year that everybody I’ve spoken to has recommended. No exaggeration. Everybody has loved it.
And everybody should see it. With a cast of this pedigree, a wonderful story, and Christopher Nolan, The Prestige is my favorite movie to come out since July.
Rupert (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred (Christian Bale) are originally both amateur magicians working for another man, but a costar’s tragic death drives a wedge between them and leads to a violent and bitter rivalry. When Alfred invents an amazing new trick called “The Transported Man,” Rupert becomes obsessed with figuring it out and topping it with his own version of the trick.
The movie itself unfolds like a magic trick, a carefully-woven illusion that could be broken if you looked closely enough, but is still engaging and entertaining whether you figure it out or not. The triple-flashback method of storytelling, two of which involve the characters reading each other’s diaries, can get confusing, but fortunately Nolan is smart and quickly establishes where you are in the timeline.
They’re also not catering to the lowest common denominator with The Prestige. The multi-layered story is obviously complex, but there are enough plants and visual clues to tie it all together without them having to explicitly spell it out.
This is the kind of movie that you’ll be replaying in your head after you leave the theater, trying to mentally rewatch the first two hours in light of the revelations of the last 10 minutes. You’ll be talking about it with your friends for hours afterwards.
And thank God the crew behind this movie understands pacing. For a movie that clocks in over two hours, it never drags or feels like it’s going too slow, and there are more than a few moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Of course the acting is amazing. How could it be anything but? You have Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, both of whom have the honorable distinction of having been able to reinvent a classic superhero for the new generation (Wolverine and Batman, respectively).
Rupert is a showman, a decent enough magician but a brilliant and charismatic performer. Alfred is the more talented magician, but his onstage manner, at least at the beginning, needs work.
A brutal desire for revenge and equally competitive natures drive their unceasing rivalry, which persists even at the attempts of those close to them to request they forgive and forget. It’s bizarrely fascinating to watch how far they’re willing to go to keep a secret and to expose the other.
David Bowie (I didn’t even realize it was him) is great as Nikola Tesla, a man who was a genius ahead of his time. The bitter rivalry between him and Thomas Edison goes on in the background of the movie, behind the main rivalry, and it’s an interesting match-up.
On the one hand you have this story of two magicians who perform amazing illusions, but on the other you have two technological wizards who do magic with electricity, scientific accomplishments that are more magical than the illusions because they are real.
The scenes with Bowie as Tesla and Andy Serkis as his assistant Alley were some of the best in the movie. Tesla’s a man who’s been one of the obsessed, who knows how such an obsession can destroy a person’s life as it has done his.
Overall The Prestige is a movie that reminds you how good they can be, even when they’re dark. It sucks you into its world, gets under your skin, and doesn’t let go.
From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies. This is one of the reviews I originally wrote during that time.