Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Prestige

There’s one problem with showing magic on a screen: who cares? We’re all convinced a magician can do anything on television or in the movies. After all, we want to believe in magic. We sure don’t want to see how it’s done.

But the magic in The Prestige isn’t really the point, thankfully, although you do get a nice, long look at some of the tricks they pull off with aplomb. They show you how it’s done for the simple tricks like the canary who disappears. But not all the tricks are revealed.

The story is all about the increasing rivalry of two magicians in turn-of-the-century London, a rivalry which leads to life-long obsessions on the part of both men. The men are Angiers, played with panache by Hugh Jackman, and Borden, played with brooding intensity by Christian Bale, and you watch their struggle to out-do, and undermine, the other, refereed by veteran actor Michael Caine, who is superb here as always. The two aren’t alike except in their love of the next greatest trick. Borden is the greater magician, but Angiers is the better showman. Both qualities seem to matter in this game.

The love stories within are intriguing and in the end spiraling, and if I told you any more, I’d be revealing too much. I wondered why a rising young star like Scarlett Johansson would even agree to be in this movie, as her part really isn’t that large. But Angier’s young stage assistant is key to the plot, especially in one rather revealing scene.

If I had a criticism at all of The Prestige, it’s that it’s too long. There are too many scenes to build up to the climax of the movie. I think discerning, intelligent moviegoers could make the journey without all the examples.

In the center of the movie is more than a rivalry between two men. It’s a question of giving all to your craft, your work. The supposition here is that there is a sacrifice to be made to be the best. Are you willing to make that sacrifice? Once you’ve taken that step, you can never go back, brilliantly illustrated in the film through another magician. It’s a fascinating question, one each faces in a different way.

The story is set up as a mystery, but in truth it is layer-upon-layer a gigantic magic trick. Or several. The title indicates the third part of every successful magic trick, the satisfactory ending to the trick where the canary, for instance, is brought back. The real question in a review of The Prestige is whether director Nolan successfully pulls off the trick. I think he does, magically.

Thumb’s up.


At 3:59 AM, Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Great review .. It left me scratching my head a bit at the end, even though I had already read the great book so knew what to expect .. It's a mostly great movie that I want to watch at least one more time, and you can't ask for much more than that


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