Film Reviews

THE PRESTIGE

By • Oct 20th, 2006 •

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Buena Vista Pictures
Touchstone Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures present a Newmarket Film and Syncopy production
Running time — 131 minutes / MPAA rating: PG-13

The “reveal” was a surprise and quite delicious.

I never figured out “the twist” even though, thinking about the film afterwards, director and co-screenwriter (with Jonathan Nolan and based on the novel by Christopher Priest), Christopher Nolan, did give it all away. A cast-off remark – how sly!

THE PRESTIGE keeps telling you that this is a story about obsession. All the main characters recognize the obsessive jealousy between these two magicians. Or, is it a sexual obsession disguised as rivalry?

Young magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are shill-confederates for a veteran stage magician. They are learning the craft of magic. Robert’s wife, Julia (Piper Perabo), is the magician’s assistant. Julia agrees to be tied with the preferred knot by Alfred. Even though the knot is difficult to untie while she is submerged in a tank during the escape trick finale, she insists she can handle it.

Julia dies and Robert rightly blames Alfred. Thus begins their rivalry, each trying to outdo the other in dazzling new magic acts and even sabotaging each other’s performances while in disguise.

Disguise, rivalry, and misdirection are cleverly handled by the masterful Nolan. And, as with his sensational MOMENTO, this is a movie that requires attention to detail. The Devil is in the details.

Similar to Sofia Coppola using food and drink in MAARIE ANTOINETTE as a substitute for our passion for drugs, we are told that Robert and Alfred’s jealousy of each other is addicting.

While they both play it straight and there is no sexual tension between them, everyone around Robert and Alfred confesses how troubling it is that they are driven to compulsion to ruin each other’s careers and lives.

Of course, Robert has a better reason. Alfred appears to have a happy family, though once revealed, his wife is tormented by his on-off affection for her. Fabulously wealthy, and hiding his real identity as a titled aristocrat, Robert acquires a sexy assistant, Olivia (Scarlett Johansson). When Robert conjures up a devious plan to send Olivia to Alfred to find out how he does his sensational instant teleportation on stage, she gets mad and promptly falls in love with Alfred.

Meanwhile, Alfred has a big secret he is keeping.

Robert’s designer, Cutter (Michael Caine) finally tells him how the damn trick is done – Alfred is using a double. They find an alcoholic actor who they make to look and act like Robert. But soon the look-alike starts making demands. Without him there is no trick. And Robert is not allowed to enjoy the “Prestige” applause; he must stay hidden in the basement at the end of the trick.

Robert is still not satisfied so he goes to see scientist Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) in Colorado Springs, to pay him a huge amount of money to build him a teleportation machine to best Alfred once again.

Tesla warns him – don’t use it. But, of course, he does.

Bale, who has worked with Nolan before (BATMAN BEGINS) and will again, has the stronger and more interesting role. But that is part of the surprise. Scarlett Johansson is a supporting stand-out with her uncanny ability to show lust and desire that heightens the jealousy between the two leads.

Thoroughly enjoyable, engaging, and with impressive production design, THE PRESTIGE is a film I intend to see again.


Credits:
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenwriters: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Based on the novel by: Christopher Priest
Producers: Emma Thomas, Aaron Ryder, Christopher Nolan
Executive producers: Charles J.D. Schlissel, Chris J. Ball, William Tyrer, Valerie Dean
Director of photography: Wally Pfister
Production designer: Nathan Crowley
Music: David Julyan
Costume designer: Joan Bergin
Editor: Lee Smith

Cast:
Robert Angier: Hugh Jackman
Alfred Borden: Christian Bale
Cutter: Michael Caine
Julia: Piper Perabo
Sarah: Rebecca Hall
Olivia: Scarlett Johansson
Mr. Alley: Andy Serkis
Nikola Tesla: David Bowie

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