The Prestige (2006) – Chrisopher Nolan

 

The Sci-Fi Chronicles book has been a welcome addition to my library, and I was delighted to see that the next subject for me to cover is director Christopher Nolan. I’ve written about most of his other films, and all the ones the book recommends previously, but for The Prestige, and one other film.

So after not having seen this film in far too long, I settled in to watch the Nolan brothers’ (Christopher and Jonathan) adaptation of Christopher Priest’s original novel, and while the film forgoes the rather creepy and disturbing ending of the book, Nolan has his own unnerving twist by the end of the film.

It’s a gorgeous film, with an incredibly talented cast, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Andy Serkis, Piper Perabo and David Bowie.

Now… Are you watching closely?

Nolan works the film like the magicians it portrays, shuffling images and storylines back and forth through time, as we follow Jackman’s Robert Angier and Bale’s Alfred Borden competing magicians, driven beyond the need to beat one another, it becomes an obsession springing from tragedy.

They constantly try to one up one another, as Angier tries to figure out Borden’s showstopping illusion, the Transported Man. They connive, steal, sneak, and sabotage one another’s works through their lives. We dive into their journals, learning their thoughts, their motivations, and their drive as neither of their lives is what they wanted them to be…

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Obsessed with learning Borden’s secret, Angier travels from the UK to Colorado to confer with Nikola Tesla (Bowie) who agrees to help him… in return for financing.

The film opens with the death of Angier, apparently murdered by Borden, who is on trial for it, and due to be executed.

The flashbacks, shuffled like a deck of cards, move us back and forth through the timeline of the story, making you believe that you are seeing one thing, when it may actually be showing you something else.

What follows is an engaging, smart, highly enjoyable film filled with tricks and illusions. All of the cast are great in their roles, and watching Bale and Jackman as dueling magicians, it’s hard to think of a film where they both turn in such great performances, playing off of one another brilliantly.

The secrets, the revelations, and the moments are all amazing; the production value is top-notch, and the story is completely engaging. And on the rewatch, after you known all the tricks and turns, it’s still entertaining, because you can see everything is shown to you from the get go, but much like a great magician, distraction and misdirection keep you from seeing it all.

Nolan continues to be one of my favorite working directors today, and while I think there are some serious missteps in Dark Knight Rises, the rest of his films continue to entertain!

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