The Prestige (2006) – Film Review

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play illusionists who try to out-do each other with disasterous consequence.

Currently wowing audiences worldwide with his mind-blowing film Inception, Christopher Nolan is an often over-looked director who is quietly changing cinema single-handedly. With there being a barrage of remakes and obvious cash-ins being repeatedly thrown at cinema audiences of late, Nolan’s directorial résumé inspires hope for the future of film. Although directing one of the biggest refranchisings of recent years (the hugely successful Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), Nolan’s imagination and directorial prowess enables the newest Batman films to achieve something few of their peers can; they both have the ability to stand alone and enthral audiences without the usual showy gimmicks other superhero flicks feel required to use. Other films in his impressive (if very small) backlog all point to his impressive directorial qualities, with Memento sitting in IMDB’s top 30 films of all time alongside Inception and The Dark Knight.

The Prestige is no exception to his impressive CV. Set at the turn of the twentieth century, it follows the attempts of two illusionists to out-do each other in order to create the most spectacular stage illusion audiences have ever witnessed.

Hugh Jackman, appearing as Robert Angier, joins Nolan-favourites Christian Bale and Michael Cane. Jackman and Bale’s convincing rivalry is portrayed in a complex and layered manner many may expect from the film’s director. Reading each other’s journals for much of the film, the protagonists are caught in a competition of one-upmanship that stems from an unfortunate and tragic stage accident involving Angier’s wife. The resulting rivalry leads to an ongoing attempt to unravel the mysteries behind the most intricate magic tricks to grace the stages of nineteenth and twentieth century.

The film’s title is fitting as the whole film is in fact a prestige in itself; the audience is forever being misled by miscommunication, deception, slights of hand and double bluffs and the worst thing of all is that the film knowingly tells you that it is doing so throughout. If, when watching the film, you get the constant niggling feeling that the wool is being pulled over your eyes then you are probably right but that simply adds to the enjoyment of the film.

The appearance of real magic (via an appearance from David Bowie) might feel like an intrusion on a film that so marvellously tricks and amazes but the story benefits well enough from the imposition. Although Bale’s gruff accent is sometimes slightly irritating the film’s stars all add texture to the film and, despite some critic’s claims that the characters are nothing without their magic, offer believable deliverances. Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall provide balance to the competitive battle between Angier and Borden (Bale).

Strengthening Nolan’s impressive cinematic performance, The Prestige is an intelligent film that thrills and thwarts its audience.

Best performance; Both Bale and Jackman are impressive but look out for Rebecca Hall and the always delightful Michael Cane.
Best bit; The constant trickery is sure to entertain whilst the clever expositions will enthral throughout.
Best line; (or perhaps most appropriate line) ‘Are you watching closely?’

If you take the initials of the two protagonists’ names you’re left with the letters A, B, R and A… all together now… cadabra!

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