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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 27.27%
Average: 12.73%
Pretty Bad: 0.91%
Total Crap: 4.55%

5 reviews, 80 user ratings

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Prestige, The
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by Erik Childress

"Why Does Christopher Nolan Insist On Making The Best Movies?"
5 stars

A magic trick is a relatively simplistic device when you think about it. The execution weíre talking about, not the years of studying and practicing the craft. Even as a child the basic framework of watching a magician remains intact. You wait in anticipation, full well that something is going to disappear or reappear. Watching closely you try to outwit the foil who has two steps ahead of you since he walked in the door. Then when all is over, you applaud and inevitably the first words out of your mouth are ďhow did they do that?Ē The revelation of such tricks made for some interesting ďwizardís curtainĒ television last decade, making the same olí dogís eyes weary enough to guess the color of the wool well before it was pulled over them. Much like years of plot twists and surprise endings can jade a moviegoer into dismissing build-ups filmmakers trot out as if weíve never seen a magic show before. Christopher Nolan is an exception though. As one of the premier directors in their infancy, Nolan has used the same illusionistís ruses to craft an entertainment whose power lies not behind the curtain but right in front of all the types of magic imaginable.

ďAre you watching closely,Ē is both the statement and sage advice offered to us at filmís beginning. Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) is performing his signature trick to an audience of eager spectators just before the turn of the 19th century. A large machine fills the stage and is inspected for authenticity by a member of the audience who backstage rips off his disguise and announces to a clueless stagehand that heís part of the show. This man is Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and as lightning bolts fill the stage and a trap door is revealed, he watches as Angier drowns in his own water tank, mysteriously left just below his escape. Borden is sentenced to death for the crime and a larger story is upon us.

Years ago, Angier & Borden were stagehands (and audience ringers) for a second-rate magician where Angierís wife (Piper Perabo) works as the pretty assistant, one of the best forms of misdirection. Cutter (Michael Caine) is the contrapment designer who has seen it all and tries to get through the head of Borden, who has dreams of wowing audiences with even greater spectacles, that the trick is only half the battle. Showmanship and selling it is the other. Disaster strikes the show one evening when the water tank takes the life of Angierís beloved. He blames Borden for the incident, who claims ignorance in the knot that he tied. This will begin a game of one-upmanship over the years, sabotaging each otherís shows and potentially their lives as both try to discover the worldís ultimate bit of magic.

Detailing the remainder of the plot would take, at least, another six paragraphs and rob you of the captivating turns that Nolan and his brother Jonathan (both responsible for the screenplay for Memento) develop from Christopher Priestís novel. And I use the word ďturnĒ instead of ďtwistĒ because thatís precisely how they handle each scene, with just a delicate shift into territory that involves ideas instead of overt revelations meant to shock us. Itís opening shot of a field littered with discarded top hats first registers as a metaphor for a changing of the guard, where the ingenuity of the 20th century begins to leave man in the dust Ė but later becomes a decidedly more ominous eye-opener in the obsessions of those hoping to be visionaries in their own time.

One of these men-of-vision turns out to be famed inventor, Nikola Tesla (played without a hint of distraction by David Bowie), known for his contributions to electricity in the wake of some other guy named Thomas Edison. Angier seeks him out, aided by Bordenís cryptic journal, to help him advance his signature slight-of-cornea known as The Transported Man (just one of two nods to the films of David Cronenberg.) Teslaís representation of science is both a progression and the destruction of the magical uncertainties which make up lifeís mysteries. Electricity may have been a magic trick centuries earlier, but it is now a reality. We choose what to believe with our eyes and what to doubt with our minds and while thereís not a single mention of God or religion throughout The Prestige, itís presence is in every passing scene.

Getting their hands dirty is the occupational hazard that magicians are forced to face, even when they must convince themselves that they are clean. Itís manifested in the sacrifice each must place on their own lives to craft the illusion as reality for the audience. Is it real or is it Memorex? Is that the same bird that was in the cage? Was Jesus resurrected or did someone just hide his body? The way the Nolans subtly pieces all this together is flawless as he becomes the magician we must be paying the greatest attention to. His separate storylines jump back and forth through time utilizing the ingenious device of Angier & Borden reading each otherís diaries and little hints like Angierís limp and Bordenís mysterious mute assistant to effortlessly keep our eye on the rubber ball while his bag holds something much more powerful.

Over the next three months, we get to see Christian Bale in not just this but as the unhinged ex-soldier in Harsh Times and the captured POW in Rescue Dawn. If it hasnít dawned upon you already with his brilliant work in American Psycho, The Machinist or Batman Begins, then this trio of performances should cement him as one of the (if not the best) actor of his generation. Anything less is insulting. In turn, Hugh Jackman (who has already lost Famke Janssen, Piper Perabo, and Rachel Weisz to death on screen this year Ė and Scarlett Johansson TWICE including here, but that was his own fault) remains a presence as a leading man and does some of his best work here. But the real leading man here is Christopher Nolan, whose last three films have all found a spot on my top ten list in 2001, 2002 & 2005. While we eagerly await for The Dark Knight to appear in 2008, the only question about The Prestigeís placement on 2006ís best list is how high can it go.

Christopher Nolan has been exploring the dual nature of man throughout his brief, but so far extraordinary resume. In Memento, it was Guy Pierce whose struggle with short-term memory loss revealed the capability of a more frightening identity. Al Pacino and Robin Williams were two sides of the same coin in Insomnia where the cop unwittingly becomes the criminal and his prey flirted on the side of righteousness; convinced his crime was no worse. And in Batman Begins, the hero needs no further explanation here as Nolan gave us the greatest justice of all with the finest treatment of his story imaginable. With The Prestige though, Nolan has taken this aspect to new realms. Algier, convinced that Bordenís version of The Transported Man involves no doppelganger trickery, goes out and finds his own double (a drunken actor also played perfectly by Jackman). Itís more than a case of just parlor tricks though, since Nolan is merely using it as a springboard to expose duality in all forms, physical and mental, towards each manís self and the treatment of the women they profess to have feelings for; love being the trickiest manifestation of them all. And just as these details come to light, like a perfect magicianís audience, we anticipate their path towards the knowledge we have been provided with only to have the rug inched out from under us time and time again.

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originally posted: 10/20/06 14:45:58
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User Comments

3/06/15 stanley welles dazzles in its enigmatic mystique 4 stars
10/20/11 Magic Mind-bending, a fable of revenge and its long term effects on man. Stunning cinematography. 5 stars
7/03/11 DK Brilliantly plotted, soildly acted and very entertaining. One lingering question though. 5 stars
3/04/09 R.W. Welch Somewhat overplotted and disjointed, but still watchable enough. 4 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. hard to understand but after i watched it 3 or 4 times i got it :] really good movie.! 4 stars
9/07/08 Halad65 Simpler than you think - great performances, awesome plot. 5 stars
5/29/08 MDH-Matt Like one big, elaborate Vegas-style magic trick, we just want the payoff 3 stars
1/07/08 Helen Fabulous movie, loved it. 5 stars
11/28/07 damalc almost a 5, but too long and over complicated 4 stars
10/27/07 tracey chambers my new fav movie. Its wonderful. great performances by all 5 stars
10/16/07 fools♫gold You'll like it. Even if you hate it now, just watch it again and you'll like it. 4 stars
8/07/07 Johnny Prestige is as ugly & gory a depiction of magic as the Illusionist is beautiful & dreamlike 1 stars
8/02/07 Alex Miles This movie is a wonderful movie bail should have won an oscar 5 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger high jackamn is ggreat in this. a great effort in puttin it as a non-linearized. movie. 4 stars
7/08/07 lucy This film was so interesting and clever....i couldn't get out of my seat! 5 stars
7/04/07 Jennifer This was great! So many twists and turns that you have to watch twice to get it all. 5 stars
7/02/07 Jubei With Memento,Nolan's best work,Bowie's flawless as Tesla.Full of metaphors. 5 stars
5/31/07 Jiz Definitely worth watching, great plot and performances. 5 stars
5/26/07 TreeTiger This is nothing less than an excellent movie! 5 stars
4/29/07 Miss Me Twisted.. I hated it the bird part that's why I wont rate it with a 5 3 stars
4/25/07 matthew holy fuck that was twisted... 5 stars
4/24/07 Michele The Illusionist was better, and you could feel sympathy for the characters on that movie. 3 stars
4/11/07 Indrid Cold Considerably more intriguing than The Illusionist. 4 stars
3/11/07 Ryan_A Nolan delivers again, with Bale and Jackman on top of their game. Needs more ScarJo.. 5 stars
3/05/07 Vinnie Predictable but interesting. 3 stars
3/04/07 Lola a better film than Departed. Departed sucks totally! 5 stars
3/03/07 Phil M. Aficionado Just a bit over the top; well done but too slick for me 3 stars
3/01/07 Anti-Goober Very watchable, but slightly boring and lacking drive 3 stars
2/25/07 Ryan i give this a little edge over the departed probably the 2 best moves out year. MUST SEE 5 stars
2/23/07 Corndog A decent flick. Worth a gander, but I'm not that interested in watching it again. 3 stars
2/18/07 Greenspoon JR This is a beautiful movie, in every way! 4 stars
2/14/07 kat GENIAL!!!!!!!!!!....nothing else to say.... 5 stars
2/14/07 D Gotta see it twice. Even better the second time. 5 stars
2/09/07 Donald The best movie of 2006. In my top 20 5 stars
1/17/07 Zeeshan Best movie of 2006. Move over The Departed. 4 stars
1/12/07 Richard Brandt Well acted, beautiful to look at, not terribly surprising 4 stars
1/06/07 Mike Strange and unique movie but good at the same time 4 stars
1/05/07 Watch This Movie! Any fan of suspenseful thrillers with twists and turns MUST see this movie. I mean it. 5 stars
1/03/07 Natasha Delicious and disturbing in equal measure. 5 stars
12/05/06 matt top5: inconvenient truth, eternal sunshine, being john malk, requiem for a dream, and this. 5 stars
11/24/06 Justin L Is it just me or was Bowie doing a great Pierce Brosnan impression? 5 stars
11/21/06 juan dela cruz ambot sa langaw pilay edad sa uk-uk...ckwet..apil na to siya sa majik..labot nimo.. 5 stars
11/20/06 Bliss Brilliant all around. Those who don't like it, didn't "get" it. 5 stars
11/18/06 tetractys brianorndorff is spot on. My only reservation was a desire for more Tesla uncertainty. 4 stars
11/16/06 MP Bartley Had it worked out before the end, but that's part of the fun. Maddeningly entertaining. 5 stars
11/14/06 Allison Quick, smart and riveting. A truly excellent film from beginning to end. 5 stars
11/14/06 Jake if you can get over moronic voiceovers and a senseless story, you might not feel cheated. 1 stars
11/14/06 Wayland This story just doesn't add up and no amout of acting can fix it. 1 stars
11/13/06 Lucy Tight, smart, captivating - up there with the Usual Suspects and Memento 5 stars
11/13/06 Mel It had a slow start, but that's my ONLY complaint. Jackman, Bale and Bowie we fantastic!! 4 stars
11/12/06 The Jax This movie was brilliant on all levels. Genius. 5 stars
11/10/06 bluebell Both actors are wonderful...and to think Jackman also is in The Fountain! Kudos to Nolan! 5 stars
11/10/06 Shayna Although I figured it out half way through, It made me work for it and I respect that 4 stars
11/07/06 Ole Man Bourbon The finale seemed way out of control, nevertheless, an entertaining film. 4 stars
11/06/06 Seageezer A little too humorless, but clever and well made nevertheless. 4 stars
11/06/06 David No one cares about the man in the box... untill your'e the one in there. Creeepy. 5 stars
11/05/06 Nancy Loved it-was engrossed all the way through 5 stars
10/31/06 chris. everything about this movie is dripping w/ misdirection, perfect for a film about magic 5 stars
10/31/06 Mona The turn is easy enough to arrive at, but the prestige-- is another story entirely 5 stars
10/29/06 Quigley very complex, very cool movie. Chris Nolan needs to make more movies with Bale. a must-see 5 stars
10/27/06 birdsall I loved it. I didnt mind not knowing much about Borben, I cheered for him the whole time. 5 stars
10/27/06 Sir Spam-a-lot I had it all figured out early - which ruined it for me, but still interesting 4 stars
10/26/06 GregSenko Soundtrack in narrow sounding, uninviting and obviously manipulative 2 stars
10/24/06 fusion chef a unique dark movie. may be hard for those that need a character to cheer for. worth seeing 5 stars
10/24/06 Rona de la Mer Bale is awesome! 5 stars
10/24/06 rs bucy great movie 5 stars
10/24/06 Duhhh Lame sci-fi "prestige" of Jackman ruins a humorless film 1 stars
10/24/06 Johnathan poor bird... 4 stars
10/24/06 neoi;l go see it twice 5 stars
10/23/06 Anthony I wish I was dumber so I could not figure out the entire plot in 30 mins! 3 stars
10/23/06 Darko Lick my balls, this movie was better than V for Vendetta! 5 stars
10/23/06 jessica williams this movie is GGRREEAATT 5 stars
10/22/06 Wayne klein Excellent movie with challenging, complex characters and plot. 5 stars
10/22/06 john s. Well worth the price of a ticket. It's powerful. 5 stars
10/22/06 Skiv Visually, it's really exciting. Loved Bowie as Tesla! 5 stars
10/22/06 Lindsay Holy crap, one of the best movies i've ever seen. 5 stars
10/22/06 melina i'm still trying to figure out parts of this moview... 5 stars
10/22/06 Adrian This is a fun movie and Nolan's directing makes it a visual treat. Excellent acting as well 5 stars
10/22/06 naewar BEST MOVIE I'VE SEEN IN YEARS! What a treat! 5 stars
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  20-Oct-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Feb-2007



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