The Prestige is a move by Christopher Nolan that has everything that one could possibly need about magicians. It consists of three acts. When it comes to Christopher Nolan, viewers know where they are in a sense that they never know where they are and when they are. From the period to the drama to the storyline, the Prestige is a movie that will leave you glued to your seat. The filmmaker believes that every story has a beginning, a middle part, and an ending. However, the order is not always the same.
As the first director to work on the Batman story, there is a lot to Christopher Nolan’s technique that many of us continue to learn more about. Thus, it is no surprise that the modern noir about a man suffering from short-term memory loss because of a brain-straining structure would present the perfect Victorian murder-mystery. It is filled with amazing convolutions that provide impeccable entertainment throughout the movie.
Despite the fact that the Batman movie was directed by Nolan and brought back Michael Caine and Christian Bale, the Prestige resembles Memento when you glue all the pieces of the puzzle together. In fact, it hardly comes as a shock when you consider the fact that the novel is an adaptation of Christopher Priest who had penned Memento with his sibling, Jonathon. The book was written during the same time that the movie was released. But, the Prestige is a completely different genre. Nolan had been previously vocal about the fact that he did not want the movie to seem like a period movie and unconventional. Thus, the camera had been mostly handheld instead of being static. It was situated in locations that required exterior shots.
As always, Nolan does not care about spreading out historical charm and giving us dazzling period detail. He wants to put the focus on the characters similar to a street-illusionist that makes coins dance using his knuckles. The audience only draws in more. The more we look the more we concentrate. It only makes the misdirection worthwhile.
The movie starts with Michael Caine handling a yellow canary trying to explain the three acts that make up a magic trick. There is the set up, the performance, and the prestige or the effect as explained to a young girl. Then, he makes a bird disappear which he crushes to death. After this, we see Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) perform a wonderful trick using blue crackles of electricity around a variety of machinery which resembles what one may find at Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. Thus, the audience is clearly fearful and in anticipation. Rupert proceeds to invite members of the crowd onto the stage. This is where Alfred Borden (the Professor) in disguise has his face swathed into the shadow.
Alfred ducts into the wings and barges into the stage trying to block the way. He takes of his fake beard to tell him that he is part of the trick. But, it results in something terrible happening and Alfred ends up getting charged with murder. As gaoled, he receives Angier’s diary which he starts reading. It triggers a flashback wherein Angier reads Borden’s memoirs. It only triggers another flashback. The flashbacks become flashforwards and we are trapped with a conundrum.
Nolan does an incredible job by keeping the mood unsettling and eerie. The Gothic trimmings of the movie make it seem like a horror picture. But, it is not as straightforward as that. The director showcases complex performances which makes it clear that there is no wrong move and everything has been well thought about.
Hugh Jackman does a great job at revealing his acting depths which had been denied to him in movies like Van Helsing and X-Men. He makes for an obvious fit. As for the Great Danton, he is a consummate showman who makes smooth moves and has a repertoire unlike anything else.
While he is filled with hatred against Borden, he becomes fixated on learning the secret to the key trick and only improving it. The closest that we had ever seen Jackman in such a dark place was in X-Men 2. However, the movie does a great job at showcasing an entirely different side of him which is for adults. A reference to sparks flying between Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale would help better explain the movie. However, the two do not share much screen time. Their relationship simply involves watching one another, peeping through the disguises, and looking through the darkness. Most of the conflict in the film is through proxies.
Olivia is the glamorous assistant who becomes a love interest of the two. Played by Scarlett Johansson, she truly struggled with an English accent and failed to engage with the audience. Then, there is Cutter who is the sagacious mentor that finds magic to be pointless unless you want to get your hands dirty. On the other hand, Tesla is the electrical pioneer who knows about the mystery. The role is played by David Bowie who manages to play the character quite well due to his quirky behavior.
Christian Bale has the most difficult job among the cast. Borden is the awkward, unsung genius who is not as interested in the usual conjurations. Instead, he crafts something new. He possesses crowd-pleasing instincts which make him an instant success. His actions suggest that he is the bad guy. However, Bale tempers Borden sensitively and makes sure that the sympathies are maintained. He comes close to snatching everything away from Hugh Jackman.
The theme of the Prestige is completely unique. It is strange and yet everything comes together perfectly. The movie has a superb analogy of celebrities and their pitfalls. The dissection of retribution and obsession shines through.
Once you have finished reading this post, you will understand what the movie is all about. The Prestige explained answers all your questions and more. It is definitely a smart film that will leave you wanting more.