Some Pretty Prestigious Prestidigitation
‘The Prestige’ Turns Plot Twists and Magic Tricks Into a Treat
By Amanda Panella
Magic, mayhem and mystery – these qualities alone can each make a movie interesting, but when properly combined, they make for an Oscar-worthy film. Director Christopher Nolan, of “Memento” fame, is in top form with his latest offering, “The Prestige,” which is perhaps his finest work in years. The film follows two young men, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman), both assistants in a magic show, both dreaming of one day being great magicians. After a routine magic act goes terribly wrong, the two men become rivals, each one attempting to learn the other’s secrets and to come up with something bigger and better. But one day, Borden devises a trick the likes of which Angier has never seen. Angier employs the help of his assistant, Olivia (Scarlett Johansson), to discover a better way to do the trick, but instead Angier becomes tormented and obsessed with discovering his rival’s secret – only to find Borden may have more than one.
With a refreshingly original script based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Priest, “The Prestige” is sure to captivate audiences with its intricate plot and carefully fleshed-out characters. Both Bale and Jackman deliver powerfully dark performances, enhancing the tones of deceit and revenge that the film cultivates. The lighting and cinematography are designed in such an ominous way that it is impossible for the audience to forget for even one second that they are watching a thriller. The costumes enhance the turn-of-the-century feeling and the actors’ spot-on accents only make the film that much more enjoyable. No one likes to sit through a movie only thinking about how what’s-his-face on screen can’t keep his accent steady – well, no worries here.
Conceivably, the major drawbacks to the film are the plot twists thrown at you every few minutes. It can feel like a bombardment, especially if you’re trying to figure out the ending before it actually ends. “Are you watching closely?” may be one of the film’s taglines, but perhaps it ought to be a direct question to the viewer. If you cannot confidently answer it with a resounding “yes,” then you may leave the film somewhat confused, disappointed and disoriented. “The Prestige” will keep your mind alert, so if you come out of the theater with a slight headache, that’s completely normal. You were probably trying to figure out more in that two hours and eight minutes than you have in the past month of classes.
I find the biggest disappointment of “The Prestige” to be Scarlett Johansson’s character. While her performance is above average, she doesn’t seem to play an integral role in the plot development but merely serves as eye candy for the gentlemen viewers. With this thought aside, I find that the film falls into a particular category – you can view it once and be astounded, you can see it twice and catch what you missed the first time and by the third watch you might have had just about enough of it. Hey, that’s okay – the first two times are awesome enough.
Ultimately, “The Prestige” offers up some fine acting, directing and storytelling with more twists, turns and prestidigitation than you can shake a stick at. In other words, it’s more than worthy of your time and you won’t leave feeling as if your hard-earned money has just simply disappeared.