By Fred Topel | Image property of Touchstone Pictures.
It will be easy to spot the tricks in The
Prestige as even thrillers about non-magicians use the same
contrivances. But even though the effective misdirection you’re hoping
for never comes, it’s still a fun ride through the world of 19th century
The Prestige Review
The film opens with Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman)
performing a disappearing act and ending up locked in a water tank. Alfred
Borden (Christian Bale) discovers the drowned Angier and goes on trial for
his murder. Through flashbacks, we learn how the duo began as assistants
together but split up after Borden’s difficult knot led to Angier’s
As competitors, Borden flourishes with his dangerous tricks while Angier
obsesses over destroying Borden with bigger and better performances. Of
course, obsession causes both men to lose touch with families or any semblance
of healthy lives.
From the description alone you should be able to predict where this familiar
structure will lead. But even though the film doesn’t reinvent the
wheel, it’s a new playground in which to work out. The Prestige
is as seductive as its magic tricks, leaving you wanting more.
Simply going inside the backstage dealings of the magic world is worth watching.
made you wait until the end to find out what was going on. The Prestige
takes us from disappearing birds to teleportation.
Even more interesting are the politics of the magic circles. There are traitors
and loyals who violate or uphold codes of ethics that only apply to the
world of selling illusions to mass audiences.
On top of that, any story about two professionals sabotaging each other
is fun. The Prestige is a good escalating battle of wits.
Obsessives are compelling. They’re usually right about their obsession,
devoted and clever. We don’t have to live with their social dysfunction.
We just watch the cool parts.
Jackman and Bale both own the screen. That would make them co-owners, I
guess. Bale’s cockney mumble is tough and Jackman’s showmanship
is even more compelling after we know the trick. Character-wise, the more
sinister Borden is actually more compelling because Angier is just desperate.
Sometimes you’ve just got to let the better man win, but then there
wouldn’t be a movie.
Scarlett Johansson is in so little of the movie it’s surprising she’s
in the trailer. Michael Caine is significant and brings an authority to
any scene that may seem like a stretch of the imagination.
Perhaps the whole thing really was an ultimate trick. By making us expect
some extravagant twist, we were totally surprised to see the usual twist
from these kinds of movies. Ah-ha, it worked!