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Review of “The Prestige” (2006) PG-13 130min

January 3rd, 2008 by Maxim · 3 Comments · 5,970 Views


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The director of “Batman Begins” Christopher Nolan directed this film written by him and Jonathan Nolan based on the novel by Christopher Priest. Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and David Bowie star.

The plot: End of 19th century London. Three friends, Robert, his wife Julia and Alfred, are assistants of a magician. A escape trick goes badly and Julia dies on stage. Robert and Alfred become enemies, trying to sabotage each other on stage and disclose each other’s tricks of the trade. When Alfred performs a successful trick, Robert becomes obsessed in figuring it out, while intense rivalry between former friends jeopardises life of other people around them with some deadly consequences.

The Prestige in the language of magicians like Michael Caine’s character Cutter is the third part of every trick. The other two are [1] The Pledge, in which a seemingly real situation is set up. [2] The Turn, in which the initial reality is changed. The third part is The Prestige – when everything is set right again.

The movie is very dark, as it should be in Victorian era: most cities were only beginning to see electric street lights amidst industrial revolution. Also, considering this is movie about darkest parts of the human soul, the setting of the movie in the misery of London is perfect for conveying the mood (Jack-The-Ripper-like). Being a magician, especially in those days, was a very dangerous job, considering there was no health-care and the high stakes competition between illusionists.

There are two parallel threads in the movie: one is the drama about the competition of the two magicians and their loved ones suffering from it, and the other is about Alfred standing trial for the death of Robert, whom we’ve seen drown just like his late wife. It was a bit confusing.

Everybody’s acting was amazing. Scarlett Johansson is seductive and beautiful as always. The movie is great for its drama and suspense. I liked this movie all the way until human drama in the end of the movie moved to the background and science fiction began in the end of the movie.

Great drama, great cinematography and light. The suspense is worthy of Hitchcock.

Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), the inventor of alternating current, and competitor of Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb (you knew that), was believed at the time to be able to do all sorts of magic with electricity. Perhaps that explains why the novel and the adaptation allowed Tesla to invent the machine for Alfred to perform his “real magic” trick.

DVD features include lots of interviews with the director and actors (The Director’s Notebook), a behind-the-scenes look at costumes, designs and poster art.

Another movie in similar genre: Illusionist (2006) with Edward Norton. Also quite dramatic and suspenseful, but with somewhat weaker acting and story.

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Tags: DVD · Drama · Movies · Sci-Fi · Supernatural

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Todd Yoshikawa // Jan 4, 2008 at 1:42 pm

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    I like the way that this movie was set up like a magic trick for the viewers. We as viewers are trying to figure out how Alfred performed his trick and what is the deal with the trial. For both, the viewer is given clues throughout the movie, but they aren’t put together until the end. Like a magic trick, the movie viewer is given a lot of misdirection to look this way and think that way when “sleight of hand” is being performed with the story.

  • 2 Patrick Roberts // Jan 6, 2008 at 12:18 pm

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    gotta love the mysteriousness of this flick, hard to say whether or not this one was better than Edward Nortan’s flick

  • 3 Dave // Feb 1, 2008 at 11:39 am

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    It is weird how this and the illusionist came out at the same time almost. It is one of those deals where they actually worked off of each other though. I liked The Prestige better, but the Illusionist was still good. They both have something unique to offer.

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