"The Prestige" presents the greatest magic show on earth

Oct. 24, 2006, midnight | By Soraya Chanyasubkit | 17 years, 7 months ago

Movie captures and mystifies moviegoers with brilliant plot

"Are you watching closely?"

With these seemingly simple words, the audience is whirled into a mysterious tale of handsome magicians, ruthless rivalry, astonishing tricks and only one victor. With a beautiful cast and an ingenious plot, "The Prestige" is the best illusionist movie this year.

The plot starts out simply enough. Friends Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) are partners in a London magic show. Following an act that goes horribly wrong, they separate with deep resentment and start their own magic shows, competing to be the best. After Borden creates a seemingly impossible act, a vengeful and obsessed Angier becomes determined to discover his secret. This synopsis barely scratches the surface of the ultimately complex tale weaved by director Christopher Nolan, whose previous works include "Memento" and "Batman Begins," and is known for consistently taking plot twists to new heights.

Unlike Nolan's other films, the movie is structured as a series of disjointed flashbacks and memories that only add to its complexity, and the time (present or past?) and place (London or America?) where characters can be extremely confusing. Add in a couple of sudden twists and turns, and the film becomes completely bewildering. But don't dismay, it only gets better after the first half, and the ending is worth the rest of the movie combined. If there was ever an Oscar for best plot twist, "The Prestige" would not only win, it would win by a huge landslide. Not only does every character get duped, the audience will be fooled too.

Aside from the mind-blowing plot, the actors do a superb job in portraying these difficult characters. Bale, famous for his title role in "Batman Begins," plays a troubled and guilt-ridden man, who experiences all the emotions on the human spectrum. Naturally charming, he masters all facial expressions, from the happiest-man-in-the-world smile to red-faced contorted rage. Likewise, Jackman, who portrays a man completely obsessed with revenge, does so convincingly, especially after a particularly nasty discovery. The rest of the supporting cast also does an excellent job with their respective parts: Michael Caine as the grandfather-like Cutter plays a wise mentor and inventor, Rebecca Hall as Borden's loving wife Sarah is distressed with the fact her husband loves magic more than her and Scarlett Johansson as both magicians' lover Olivia is a seductive but pathetic woman torn between two men.

The cinematography and musical score is quite typical of a suspenseful movie. The film, though, expertly manipulates and plays with shadows on the magicians' faces and darkness in alleys as a main motif, giving a sense of mystery. The devices in the movie are also impressive, ranging from the strange disappearing-bird-trick contraption to a shockingly realistic transporting machine. It also reveals how today's magicians perform their seemingly impossible tricks with the use of a joke cage or trapdoor.

It was a first when, as the lights came back on and the credits started to roll, literally half the audience stayed in their seats and discussed the ending. If moviegoers are inattentive for even a second, they might lose an important detail that builds up to the climax of the film. At times, the plot twists seem quite predictable, but at others, they are works of pure genius. Though there are some plot holes and it is difficult to sometimes keep up with the quick flashbacks, the intricate story of secrecy and obsession the wonderful cast weaves produces a masterpiece that will definitely leave a lasting impression on the audience.

As Cutter eloquently states in the last scene, referring to the final step of a magic trick, "The Prestige is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance and you see something shocking you've never seen before." The movie truly lives up to his and every viewer's expectation.

"The Prestige" (128 minutes, area theaters) is rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images.

Last updated: April 27, 2021, 12:38 p.m.

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Soraya Chanyasubkit. Soraya Chanyasubkit loves her name, Thailand, penguins, eating, making fun of people and music. She is silly, mean, and friendly. (The last two qualities are in no way of being contradictory.) She most likely hates you. And will willing and loudly say so. More »

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