The Prestige

Dir: Christopher Nolan
Star: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall

While similar in era and general theme to The Illusionist, I think this probably works slightly better. Rupert (Jackman) and Alfred (Bale) play young apprentices to a conjuror: the latter may, or may not, bear responsibility for the death of the former's wife. They part company shortly thereafter, and begin a tit-for-tat series of escalating revenge, sabotaging each other's tricks, careers and lives. Rupert ends up in Colorado Springs, working with Nicholas Tesla, trying to find the secret to Alfred's big trick, the Transported Man, which Tesla helped create. Is that just a red-herring, left by his rival to lure Rupert away? Or is Tesla perhaps a step beyond the mechanical illusions performed by the duo, doing in reality the kind of things they only pretend to do? When Rupert returns, it's with a trick that may surpass Alfred's, setting the stage - literally - for a final confrontation between the mortal enemies.

The film plays cleverly with the artifice and effort that goes into the creation of the illusions, with Caine memorable, playing the "ingenieur" who works behind the season, to fabricate the mechanisms required. The titular prestige is, for example, the third part of a trick, after the pledge and the turn, where the components all come together to create the effect. These aspects are almost as interesting as the main plot, and the story does likely overshadow the characters, even if Bale is good as ever. It does have a somewhat over-complicated structure, and in a similar way to The Illusionist, there is a massive twist at the end. Here, it basically causes you to re-think everything which has happened previously, in a way perhaps not experienced since Fight Club. It likely does count as a cheat, though it'd take me another viewing before I could come to a definite conclusion on that. However, even if that proves to be the case, there's still enough meat around the bones to make me willing to forgive the illusion.

[March 2008]

Bale and Jackman
turn tricks for money
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