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The Prestige April 24, 2007

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.

This web of mystery, intrigue and magic spun by brothers Jonathan and Chrisopher Nolan (who collaborated earlier for the delightfully baffling Memento) is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Christopher Priest (published in 1995). From what I’ve read the film is said to have significant differences from the novel and some fans suggest that both are different experiences.

Every magic trick (apparently) consists of three acts. The first act is called “The Pledge”. This is where the magician shows the audience a seemingly ordinary object and allows them to inspect it. The second act called “The Turn” is where he does something extraordinary like making it disappear. But this isn’t enough. The final and most important act is “The Prestige” where he makes it reappear. And this act holds the key in this film.

Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) are two warring magicians. During their apprenticeship under another magician, Angier’s wife meets with a tragic death and Borden could have been the cause. This starts a game of sabotage and one-upmanship between the two. Among the many complexities in the narrative, the main point of interest is the “Transported Man” act developed by Borden. Angier tries his best to find out the trick behind this act but fails. Looking to improve on the act, Angier gets help from none other than Nikola Tesla who creates a special device for him. This device is capable of real magic unlike the illusions that these two create. Will Borden allow Angier to be called the better magician? Who is indeed the better magician? Can Angier get his revenge on Borden? What was the secret behind the “Transported Man”?

You hardly expect a linear narrative from director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia, Following, Batman Begins) and this one is just as convoluted as I imagined it to be. Again, the non-linearity might not have been really necessary but adds to the charm. Nolan reiterates that he is one of the most promising young directors of today. The screenplay by the brothers is quite good and once again, they manage to mystify and deceive the audience if they did not completely bamboozle them. After watching the film, I wanted to read the original book and gauge how well these two have adapted it (but of course, there isn’t the time).

Jackman and Bale are very good in their roles, especially Bale. Michael Caine gets another important supporting part to play. Scarlett Johannson is wasted though her character is integral to the script. I wonder why she is taking up such unimportant roles after the initial promise. Rebecca Hall as Borden’s wife Sarah gets a better role to play and does a nice job.

This is one of those films that is highly intricate and imaginative and is therefore worth a watch whether you like it in the end or not. A part of the audience that is trying hard to guess the secret may feel cheated but I didn’t. Some of the twists can be guessed after a point but that still leaves out a lot of detail. A few might even dislike the darkness of the characters. For me, the imagination and the plotting were enough to enjoy this film thoroughly. In tune with Caine’s thoughts from the film, I wasn’t really looking for the secret. I didn’t look hard enough because I wanted to be fooled. I wanted that feeling of wonder to stay and it did.


1. Shujath - August 8, 2008

I was quite mesmerized with this one…couldn’t take my eyes off it even for a second. The most interesting thing is the non-linear narrative. I’ve seen films before with that but the way it happens here is quite unique (though I must say I found it really hard to figure out in the very beginning).

If one is trying to figure out the twists they might be successful a few times but it’s a much better experience if you take it as it comes. This film is about magic and it worked for me like magic

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