The Prestige Review

Are you watching closely?

The Prestige stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as two rivaling magicians, both wanting to outdo the other in increasingly dangerous ways after Borden (Bale) accidentally kills Angier’s (Jackman) wife. As the film goes on, it becomes increasingly apparent that the lengths either of them are willing to go have no limit. Christopher Nolan is famous for having complicated stories, usually containing a twist, and always told either in flashbacks or out of order completely. This film opts for the former, telling the bulk of the story through the readings of Angier’s journal by Borden. It gets a little more complicated when we are then watching the story unfold through Angier reading Borden’s journal while Borden is still reading Angier’s journal. It’s not as complex as it sounds. In fact, this is probably the sloppiest and least complex of any of Nolan’s projects.

Characters will be doing one thing, then suddenly they’ll be midway through a completely different action in the next cut. Sometimes they’ll even change positions in the same scene without walking. It’s not a major problem, but these editing flaws were enough to be distracting. When it comes to movies about magicians, you’d expect the story to be misleading, confusing, and most importantly, engaging. The Prestige is all but one of those: Confusing. Possibly the biggest letdown for me was how obvious the story ended up being. I figured out the twist pretty early on, and it’s not like it was very well hidden. Everyone in my family figured it out, too, my sister even sooner than I. The film acts like we don’t have any idea until the very last minute, which would be obnoxious if this film had nothing going for it. Fortunately, it has multiple positives.

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are the best things about this movie. Hands down. They’re both fantastic here, and in general. Another thing this movie nails is immersion. The costumes and sets all absorb you in the world of 19th-century London, so even if you can see all of the plot points coming, you don’t really care. I didn’t, at least. I love movies about magicians, whether I should or not (Now You See Me, Now You See Me 2.) Something about magicians fooling civilians and each other is fun to me, and there’s plenty of that here. This movie actually steps it up, instead of just harmless tricks or thievery, they add bodily harm to the mix. And I loved it.

I’ve always wanted malicious magicians with more on their mind than money. This is present here, and in spades. The amount of palpable spite they held for each other was intoxicating. I couldn’t get enough of it. Each event and each progressive escalation only drew me in more. By the end, even though I knew what was going to happen, I desperately wanted to know how. That’s the second biggest strength to this film: Despite knowing the what, the how is wonderfully kept from the audience until the very last minute. And that, in the end, makes this a wonderful experience.


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