Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine
Review by Jordan
I’ve decided that I hate magicians. I hate their personalities, on-stage personas, outfits, quasi dance moves and tricks. I hate the fact that in reality they are performance artists, and lousy ones at that, and that no matter how grand their ‘magic’ is, there is always a predictable resolution; a finale, the prestige.
Despite this inner (and now outward) angst, however, it should be stated that I very much took a liking to Neil Burger’s The Illusionist (2006) when my mate picked it as his choice in our regular Monday Movie Night. It is, after all, fore mostly a love story and a murder mystery, told with care and precision and featuring exquisite performances from a talented cast including Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and the lovely Jessica Biel; from beginning to end I was captivated and intrigued, trying to solve the puzzle in my head even when it appeared there wasn’t one to be solved. As a magician hater, it would be hard for me to again be impressed by a movie dealing with the same subject, but then I watched The Prestige…
Pitting two performers with a mutual, devastating hate against each other as they strive for the perfect trick, Christopher Nolan’s highly regarded grand opus has garnered such a loyal following it’s a wonder it hasn’t knocked off The Shawshank Redemption/The Godfather Part 2 as the no. 1 ranked movie on IMDB. It’s actually quite surprising that a film with no redeemable characters whatsoever has become so popular and so extraordinarily re-watched, normally its charisma and charm that ensure a second, third or 50th visit to a particular film, but here (as with other titles such as The Usual Suspects, Mulholland Drive and The Shining) it is the complexity of the plot that keeps people coming back.
There is almost a rule when having watched The Prestige, that you must show it to someone who, if not un-familiar with it, must at least be ignorant of its story, in order to discuss the revelation and it’s evidence throughout the running time afterwards and garner an even stronger appreciation for what Nolan created. While I don’t believe this to be his best film (that honour still lies with the twisty Memento), any lover of his Batman trilogy has the duty of witnessing what can be achieved on a smaller scale. To quote David Cronenberg in his reaction to The Dark Knight Rises: “I think it’s still Batman running around in a stupid cape. I just don’t think it’s elevated. Christopher Nolan’s best movie is Memento, and that is an interesting movie. I don’t think his Batman movies are half as interesting, though they’re 20 million times the expense.” I’m nowhere near this harsh… but you get the point. The Prestige has a grand aura that hearkens back Hollywood’s Golden Age. It provides mature entertainment without the need for an R rating, and assembles a cast that covers all tastes: Hugh Jackman can sell films to nigh every Australian, Christian Bale and Michael Caine have worked hard to forge incredible reputations as dramatic actors, Scarlett Johansson is simply stunning and sizzles on screen and supporting players such as Andy Serkis, David Bowie and Piper Perabo have cult audiences that would follow them all the way to a Home Alone sequel and back.
I hate magicians. Hate them like I hate pineapple on pizza and uncomfortable cinema seats. But it needs to be said, I love The Prestige. It’s not a perfect film, the second act stands mainly as an hour of time devoted to watching two enemies come up with increasingly nasty ways to ruin each other’s reputation, and there can only be so many times that they pick each other out of their respective crowds to ‘assist’ in the performances before it becomes terribly silly, but for 130 minutes it forces its audience to suspend disbelief and jump headfirst into a labyrinth more difficult to navigate than the mind of Carlos Estevez.
That’s what cinema is all about.
4.5 murdered birds out of 5