The Prestige (2006) (PG-13)
A magic act has three parts: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. It’s not enough for a magic act to only have two, anyone can show an object and then make is disappear, but it takes a true showman and magician to make the object come back—forcing the observer to assume in the object’s permanence.
Magic is something that always interests people—it’s not the vaudeville setting or the cheap tricks that could be as realistically grotesque as sawing a person in half—but magic hold its intrigue by being astonishing, believable (and unbelievable), and entertaining. An audience has to assume that there is some rational explanation for the trick that they just saw, yet the trick has to be clever enough for this audience to be left with only one answer—magic.
Most people only see the glamorous outside of a magic act and at the beginning of “The Prestige” we are warned that we might not want to know the ending of the trick—the explanation could be more disturbing than the actual trick.
“The Prestige” tells the story of two magicians who become adversaries near the beginning. They are always on a mission to one-up the other. The audience of people has vanished, they are really playing for each other. Each one is a brilliant showman and their acts only increase in complexity and magnitude until it all boils down into madness and obsession.
Christopher Nolan has long been one of my favorite directors, he throws philosophy in Batman—what more could you ask of a man? But I feel that “The Prestige” is his weakest movie, simply for its reveal.“The Prestige” is a movie that relies on its third act reveal—heck, it’s even named after the final part of a magic act...needless to say: the viewer needs a satisfying ending. What doesn’t work about the ending is that it takes itself too seriously and it’s too smart for its own good. A second viewing clarified this point of view.
While at first “The Prestige” seems like it’s about a reveal—it’s actually about war and obsession, and for this I commend it.
But the ending is a reveal of sorts, which is supposed to carry the weight of the building themes and emotions—regrettably, it doesn’t.
The actors are all in their places—Hugh Jackman does a really great job as does his opposite Christian Bale. Nolan regular Michael Caine is—well, Michael Caine. These three compromise the entire core of the movie. The supporting cast while good and big-named (Andy Serkis and David Bowie make small appearances) they don’t enforce the point of the movie. The best acting job in the movie lies with Rebecca Hall as the distraught lover.
I found myself enjoying the drama of the movie when I saw it “The Prestige” for the second time, but I also found that I didn’t believe in the magic.
At its core—the reveal is unbelievable, and not in a good way.
The stylization of the movie is very appealing and the score is reflective of “Inception” which would come later.
It’s a good movie, the ideas are crystal but the execution isn’t fully developed enough for the movie to be powerful.
It’s an exploding firework, showy and pretty—and then, it disappears in the night sky.
It’s fascinating, but not enthralling—mysterious, but not gripping.
Nolan could have picked a better background to frame his obsessive tale—this one doesn’t feel natural. There’s references to Edison and another scientist being enemies (much like the two magicians) but that felt silly. Edison, though never shown, sends out men to spy on his competition and they act like shady government agents.
“The Prestige” isn’t grounded enough in the time period that it’s representing.
Perhaps the most enjoyable item in the movie is the opening line: “Are you watching closely?”
Score: 3 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones