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The Prestige (2006)

December 15, 2009

8/10 Angry Nerds

One more fantastic notch to be added onto Chris Nolan’s belt.

The Prestige is about two magicians in 19th Century England whose friendship turns into a lifelong rivalry as they go to any and all lengths in order to one-up each other on their quest to create the ultimate illusion, something that would make that David Blaine weirdo run for the hills with his tail between his legs.

Who knew people took magic so seriously?

So for some reason, this movie came out at the same time as The Illusionist – also about a magician doing his thing in 19th Century England – and I find that people constantly mistake the two. But make no mistake folks, The Prestige is the one to see.

It’s directed by Christopher Nolan, and, really, what else is there to say. He’s one of the best at what he does and it’s been crystal for a while now that he’s got this whole storytelling thing down to a science. And while the look and feel of this movie is very sleek and stylish in keeping with Nolan’s prior and future efforts, the most impressive thing about this movie is the way in which he structures it.

And on that note, here’s the story behind the title…

Actually, rather than paraphrase it myself and butcher it like I know I will, I’ll let Michael Caine do the talking. Take it away, Mike.

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called ‘The Pledge’. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called ‘The Turn’. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because 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 we call ‘The Prestige’.

Thanks, Mike. Well put.

The reason I bring this up because Nolan structures the plot as though it were a magic trick. He starts off by presenting the audience with ordinary characters in an otherwise ordinary situation, develops them and their trade into extraordinary subjects, and then brings it all full circle with the final “Prestige” at the end. Can’t really say more than that, but it’s a thing of beauty. Man, it’s gotta be tough as all hell to write a script like this, even an adapted script, but Chris Nolan and his brother Jonathan pull it off like it’s no big thing. I don’t know how they do it, but keep it up, guys.

The acting here is also really solid. Christian Bale plays the closest thing we have to a “good” magician and Hugh Jackman takes on the closest thing we have to an “evil” magician. The reason I say this is because they’re both pretty mean bastards at one point or another and even though their roles seem to become much more defined by the story’s close, I don’t think these two guys have too many friends. But still, this is Patrick Bateman and Wolverine we’re talking about here. Good acting as usual on their behalves.

And my man Michael Caine plays the mentor/voice of reason to our two favorite magicians as their hobby develops into obsession. Since Michael Caine is freakin’ great and is probably up there as one of my all-time favorite actors, I’ll just say that he he kicks ass as usual and leave it at that.

Scarlett Johansson‘s also in it as Jackman’s assistant. She’s fine.

Oh, and David Bowie‘s in it too as Nikolai Tesla. Not much of an actor, but then again, David Bowie rules.

The point is, The Prestige is an absolutely wild movie that will amaze you the first time around and then make you want to watch it all over again right after. The characters can be a little too cold for their own good at times, but hey, we’re talking about 19th Century magic here, this shit is no joke. It’s Chris Nolan, it’s an all-star cast, it’s a totally boss script, and hats off to you if you figure it all out before the end comes around, because I sure as hell didn’t.

Isn’t more fun to just be surprised anyway? I think so.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2009 10:15 am

    your posts are hard to keep up with these days AR, youre really churning em out – good job.
    the prestige is a great show with a few tiny flaws (David Bowie cant act. And neither can Scarlet Johansensonsonson).
    its batman v wolverine, and batman wins. just.
    still dont understand the ending though…

    • December 15, 2009 10:35 am

      Thanks, man. I think I’m slowly going stir crazy doing this every day, but hey, I probably shouldn’t be complaining about writing movie reviews of all things.

      I’d watch this one again if you missed the ending. That’s what it’s all about. Pretty cool stuff.

  2. December 15, 2009 11:39 am

    One of my favorite movie of all-time. I also did not get the ending after the first watch but I re-watched it and was blown away!!

  3. Branden permalink
    December 15, 2009 2:47 pm

    I hate to be the “Debbie Downer” of this comment section. I hated the movie. Hugh Jackman’s character was such a douche that he should have listened to Michael Caine’s character in the first place not have this vendetta against the Christian Bale character. When the twist ending happens, you wonder “What the fuck was that?” I doesn’t make that much sense.

    • December 15, 2009 4:42 pm

      God, you’re a Debbie Downer. But I can see where you’re coming from, there was some douche behavior to be had. I don’t think I’m preaching to the choir here, but I dug the ending, thought it was pretty kickass. But hey, to each his own, man.

  4. Marc permalink
    December 16, 2009 4:14 pm

    Few movies make you want to run right back in the theater and watch it again…and this did just that. Near perfect if you ask me and I see the criticism of Bowie and Scarlett’s casting here. This really is a well layered and thought out film.

    For a movie about smoke and mirrors, what Nolan and his brother did here is almost indistinguishable from magic (sorry could help from using that pun)

    Watching the movie over again it’s so cool to see the cats ans top hats in the title sequence:)

  5. December 17, 2009 3:26 pm

    Hugh Jackman was robbed of a Best Actor nomination twice in 2006(The Prestige & The Fountain). The ending was great and the allegory of magic equating to the existence of God was mind-blowing. Can’t wait for Inception.

    • December 17, 2009 3:48 pm

      Way to give some love for The Fountain. I gotta get around to reviewing that, loved it even though everyone else didn’t. Darren Aronofsky, man. That guy is no joke. Can’t wait for Inception either.

  6. March 16, 2010 10:09 am

    I absolutely hate this movie, it ranks near the bottom of my all-time worst movies list, and that’s not hyperbole, that’s how little I think of this film and of Nolan’s “skill” as a director.

    Aiden, don’t steer the kind folk wrong, if you’re going to see one magic based 2006 film, The Illusionist is the great one of the two and the one you need to see. 🙂

  7. August 6, 2010 12:25 pm

    When it comes to challenging an audience, as well as being highly entertaining, Nolan is always best, and this is one of his best showings. Check out my review when you get a chance: Great Review!


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