Even with a student discount at the AMC, it’s pretty expensive to see a movie in the theater these days. And frankly, many movies aren’t worth the $8. But every once in awhile, an excellent film makes up for all of that wasted cash and time, earning its spot on Facebook fanatics’ favorite movies lists everywhere. Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) has created such a masterpiece, The Prestige, which is based on a book by Christopher Priest. Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) share a common dream of becoming the best magician in 19th century London. At first, they work together under the guidance of Cutter (Michael Caine), a veteran in the field who manages and trains aspiring magicians. But a bitter rivalry is spawned when Angier’s wife (Piper Perabo), a beautiful magician’s assistant, dies tragically performing a trick, and Angier holds Borden responsible. A cut-throat, manipulative rivalry ensues between the two magicians who are engaged in an obsessive competition to “one-up” the other.
Borden is a competent magician but lacks the mesmerizing stage presence that Angier possesses. Angier, though he can command the audience, is perpetually attempting to unravel Borden’s tricks, the most captivating being Borden’s innovative “Transported Man.” Consumed by his desire to steal the limelight, Angier travels to the end of the earth (well, Colorado) to consult with world-renowned and historically based inventor and engineer, Nikolai Tesla (David Bowie). Also mixed up in the devastating cycle are Borden’s wife, played by Rebecca Hall, and his beautiful assistant, Olivia, played by none other than the ever-seductive Scarlett Johanssen.
Here’s the marvelous thing about this movie: it’s perfect for everyone. For the moviegoer seeking a film involving obsession, sabotage, revenge and competition, The Prestige will satisfy every adventurous whim. For the audience member who doesn’t enjoy the actual plot, there’s an abundance of handsomeness: Batman and Wolverine in the same movie. Also, the supporting cast adds additional flavor to the film. Caine, as usual, commands the screen in all of his scenes. Johanssen embodies her role, albeit a role similar to many of her others, and adds tension to the plot. Although the sci-fi component isn’t the film’s strongest element, Bowie fits the role of the enigmatic and strange scientist, Tesla, quite well. Movies about magic are a new trend but not yet overdone. Actually, the movie offers quite an interesting look at the trials and tribulations of being a professional trickster.
Viewers must pay careful attention from the first line of the film – “Are you watching closely?” – to its unexpected finale. For every twist realized by the audience, Nolan provides another, keeping viewers always on their toes. He directs the film as if it were, in itself, a magic trick, giving it the three parts that each trick possesses: “The Pledge,” which captivates the audience, “The Turn,” in which something ordinary becomes something extraordinary and “The Prestige,” the magnificent revelation in which viewers are left in disbelief and awe. This story could have been told in a straightforward chronological manner, methodically alternating between Borden and Angier, but Nolan has indeed made The Prestige a deceptive and intricate tale. He possesses both the fundamentals and the artistic touch, a balance coveted by magicians and film makers alike. This film is worth $7, 135 minutes and a sore rear-end, leaving viewers longing to see it again and eager to find out what other tricks Nolan has up his sleeve.
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