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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 EricDSnider

"You'll never look at a disappearing-dove trick the same way again."
4 stars

Forget "The Illusionist"! The preeminent twisty-plotted European-magicians-at-the-turn-of-the-last-century movie of 2006 is "The Prestige"! "The Prestige" is "A Bug's Life" to "The Illusionist's" "Antz," the intelligent "Deep Impact" to its silly "Armageddon."

But we will not be comparing movies, ladies and gentlemen, because it is not fair. It is coincidence, and nothing more, that two such similar films have come out in the same calendar year. Let me just point out that I thought "The Illusionist" was nothing special to begin with, and that "The Prestige" is 10 times smarter and deeper. Oh, and that Edward Norton's accent in "The Illusionist" is hilariously bad. So there.

"The Prestige" is directed by Christopher Nolan and co-written by him and his brother Jonathan, adapted from a novel by Christopher Priest. The remake "Insomnia" and the franchise-rejuvenator "Batman Begins" notwithstanding, this is the Nolan brothers' true follow-up to their 2001 masterpiece "Memento." Like that film, "The Prestige" tells its story out of sequence, with details hinting at things that have already happened but that we have not seen yet (why does Hugh Jackman have a limp?), and with surprises and reversals popping up madly in the last act.

Set in London circa 1900, the film shows us the end first (one of the Nolans' favorite tricks), with one of the two central characters dying and the other going on trial for his murder. From there time becomes fractured (though not confusingly so) as we bounce back and forth over the course of a couple years, gradually piecing together the story.

At issue are two magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). They began as friends, working together as another illusionist's assistants, but were driven apart when Angier's wife was killed during a trick. Angier blames Borden for it and subsequently makes an attempt on Borden's life during one of Borden's own stage shows. Borden retaliates during an Angier performance. And so on and so forth. The nice thing about two magicians fighting each other is that you know their methods of sabotage will always be entertaining to watch.

Borden becomes the more famous of the two magicians, working under the name The Professor and stunning audiences with an illusion called "The Transported Man." In it, he seems to walk through a door at one end of the stage, disappear, and instantly re-enter through another door at the other end. It cannot literally be done without defying the laws of physics.

Angier's faithful, level-headed assistant, Cutter (Michael Caine), calmly explains that Borden must be using a double, a look-alike. He points out, quite rightly, that all magic tricks are disappointingly simple once you know how they're done. But Angier is obsessed with Borden, first for that fatal accident involving his wife, and now for one-upping him as a magician. There MUST be more to it than a simple body double! Something more ingenious and clever!

Angier heads to Colorado, where Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) has been experimenting with electricity. (Yes, you read that right: This film features David Bowie as Nikola Tesla.) Angier believes Tesla devised a machine for Borden's "Transported Man" trick, and he wants him to do the same for him. But could a machine that ACTUALLY does what Borden's trick suggests really be built? Can Tesla really perform magic? To someone unfamiliar with the marvels of modern science, wouldn't even something as simple as electricity be "magical"?

Meanwhile, there is intrigue in Borden's personal life. He is married to Sarah (Rebecca Hall), from whom he has declared he will keep no secrets. But his lovely stage assistant, Olivia (Scarlett Johansson), has become his mistress -- and, what's more, he wants her to spy on Angier for him, to learn what he's up to so he can stay one step ahead.

Bale and Jackman, a Brit and an Aussie who have never worked together but who seem like they should have, are at the top of their game, both working magic in their turns as magicians. Sometimes a showman is flashy and loud; other times he uses subtlety to attract your attention. Borden and Angier are certainly aware of this, and so are Bale and Jackman. You can tell a good actor from a mediocre one because the good actor will give even "just for fun" movies like "The Prestige" their full measure of energy and commitment. That's Bale and Jackman to a T: completely hard-working and devoted.

Early in the film, Cutter lays out how an illusion works. First the magician shows you something ordinary. Then he makes it do something impossible, like disappear. Then he puts everything right again (brings the vanished item back), but usually with a flourish (the item is in an audience member's pocket).

The genius of the film is that it is about magic tricks and is also a magic trick itself, following the pattern just described and using misdirection as much as a stage illusionist would. Details you ignored because they seemed like mere window-dressing turn out to be pivotal. Nothing is as it appears to be, and all the clues are right there in front of you.

Unfortunately, the film adheres to one of the other laws of magic, one I referred to earlier: When you find out how it's done, it's always disappointing. The film's big reveal -- the moment where Nolan yanks the handkerchief away and says, "Ta-da!" -- well, you'll probably spot it long before he wants you to. The thing is, it doesn't matter much. Where some films lean on their "surprises" like crutches, "The Prestige" doesn't live or die by the shockingness of its finale. I saw it coming a mile away and here I am, still recommending the film to you as a brilliantly plotted, smartly directed, fiendishly entertaining merry-go-round.

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originally posted: 10/20/06 14:55:37
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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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