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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Oct 21: The Prestige


Oct 21: The Prestige

"The rivalry between two magicians is exacerbated when one of them performs the ultimate illusion."
Directed by: Christopher Nolan, Rated: PG-13, 130 minutes

There have been very few movies about magic that have seen the light of day. Sure, the Harry Potter movies have to deal with witchcraft and wizardry but very few films deal with real magicians  using sleight-of-hand and illusions to wow their audiences. With The Prestige, not only do we see the inner-workings of two stage magicians but we see the lengths these two men will go to discover the other's tricks while maintaining their own secrecy. It's a terrific look at an obsession that really ruins two men and turns the story of magic into something much more relatable than a rabbit coming out of a hat. 

Who wants to watch THIS for two hours?

Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are two magicians working together under Milton (Ricky Jay). As time goes on, each man is given a chance to show off his own ability and the two begin developing their own shows. After a magic trick of Milton's goes terribly wrong (at the possible fault of Borden), the two split course and go in different directions, Borden finding his own place on stage and Angier, haunted by the tragedy, vowing to ruin Borden, who has apparently come up with the world's greatest trick. Angier requests the help of Cutter (Michael Caine) to discover the secret behind Borden's "Transporting Man" illusion, a trick that appears to involve some sort of teleportation. As Angier becomes more obsessed with discovering the secrets, he goes to great lengths to replicate the trick, using a double and then eventually a machine created by Nikola Tesla (David Bowie). Layer upon layer is slowly peeled away and we, as the audience, are torn between the two men, never knowing which side to truly embrace. 

Seriously, why isn't David Bowie in everything!?

The Prestige is a masterful look at the lengths obsession can lead and the tolls it takes on the personal lives of these two men. At first, Angier is thought to be the hero but as his fall into this obsession grows deeper, he becomes lost in the mess. Borden is a man who just wants to have a family but a part of him pulls him away, forcing him to sacrifice many aspects of his life in order to maintain the illusion he's been running for years. It's quite tragic and as you see him give up more, you begin to understand and support what he does. A large part of how this teeter-tottering of heroes is attributed to the incredible performances given by both Jackman and Bale. Bale, comfortable with director Christopher Nolan, is at his best, expressing both arrogance (at first) and eventually, pathos, as more is revealed. His character's progression is amazing to watch and by the film's end, you're almost completely on his side. Jackman is in perhaps his finest role and he shows us that he's more than a beefcake laced with Adamantium. He's a hero we all can cheer for, given the circumstances, and seeing his fall from grace is that much harder to watch. Both men continually go at each other on stage and off, and the literal war that develops between them pulls you back forth. Neither man outshines or out-acts the other and this really plays into the actual story. 

Batman vs. Wolverine proves to be incredibly interesting. 

The Prestige is a dark and pretty depressing little movie. The characters feel genuinely real and very human and the situations they're put into receive reactions I feel most people would share in themselves. Obsession wraps itself around these individuals and the lengths they go to uncover and hide secrets is entertaining to watch, but also heartbreaking. One man is desperate to unveil a secret while the other is desperate enough to keep one hidden. It's a genius little cat and mouse game that turns into a violent duel and many casualties are caught up in between the mess. At the film's conclusion, there is no obvious "winner" as both men have deteriorate plenty and have sacrificed a lot already. The Prestige is not all about the magic as much as it is about the mentalities and personalities of these two men and questions how far is too far when trying to one-up the other. It's a terrific film that solidifies itself towards the top of Christopher Nolan's filmography. I would highly recommend it. 

The Good:
the countless "illusions" that leave you guessing, even when you have a rough idea of where everything MAY be heading
The Better:
as sad as it is, seeing the lengths two men will go to be the best does prove entertaining in the mystery 
The Best:
incredible acting by not only its two leads, but by the many recognizable supporting actors



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At October 21, 2012 at 9:58 PM , Blogger Mavi@filmscope said...

After memento, this is my favourite Nolan film... was a little disappoint with the ending on first watch.

At October 21, 2012 at 10:05 PM , Blogger Nick said...

It's definitely up there for me. It's hard to decide what goes where as he has so many great movies.

At October 23, 2012 at 11:12 PM , OpenID r361n4 said...

I'm glad you liked this movie, a lot of people cite it as their least favorite Nolan film but I have loved it all three times I've seen it. I'd love to see him go back to this sort of movie now that the Dark Knight Trilogy is done with.

At October 23, 2012 at 11:22 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Yeah. As sad as I am that The Dark Knight trilogy is over, I am very excited as to what Nolan does next.

At October 29, 2012 at 10:39 PM , Blogger Richard Kirkham said...

This movie is wonderful and sad and strange at the same time. The resolution is completely appropriate. I had dinner with Ricky Jay once in his youth and mine at my parents dinner table. My Dad was a professional magician and he would have definitely recognized the competitiveness and backstabbing that went on in this story. If you are interested, I have a blog for his career you might enjoy browsing through.


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