Two Victorian-era magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), abandon their friendship after tragedy strikes during one daring performance. They launch into a determined rivalry that builds into an escalating battle of tricks and an unquenchable thirst to uncover each other's trade secrets - especially the sensational illusion of The Transplanted Man. Their conflict impacts on Angier's mentor, Cutter (Michael Caine) as well as his assistant Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) and Borden's wife Sarah (Rebecca Hall). It also draws in the reclusive and brilliant builder of special machines, Tesla (David Bowie) and his sidekick Alley (Andy Serkis). Obsession turns the conflict into a battle to the death ...
Review by Louise Keller:
There is plenty of sleight of hand in Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, a mystifying thriller about obsession, secrets and lies. We learn that a magic trick has three parts. The first is called The Pledge, in which we are shown something that's ordinary. What looks ordinary becomes extraordinary in The Turn and the final act (The Prestige) is the moment when the magician dazzles by sheer audacity. This is also the formula for the film's structure, which takes us on a high-wire act that builds towards a shocking climax. Nolan is a master storyteller and together with his brother Jonathan, has penned this original tale about two rival magicians whose obsession dares them to venture to great heights - without a safety net.
Magic, love and deception are the key ingredients, and the main players (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as Angier the Showman and Borden the Genius) are intense. As young magicians working together, their rivalry is healthy. But when a trick goes horribly wrong there are consequences, and Angier and Borden quickly become bitter enemies. They start to harass one another, sabotaging the other's act, never afraid to 'get their hands dirty'. It is that commitment to 'going all the way' that makes this tale genuinely exciting.
Michael Caine brings a philosophical world-weariness to Cutter, the designer of the stage illusions, who reminds Angier that obsession is a young man's game. Historic rogue scientist Nikola Tesla (played with panache by David Bowie) and Scarlett Johansson as the willing assistant and mistress are solid additions to the cast.
Truth is a slippery notion and the stakes grow higher and higher. I love the fact that Angier is so obsessed with secrecy, he hires a blind stage hand. The fragments of the complex jigsaw finally begin to fit as the final curtain opens for the showdown. The price is high as are the rewards of this breathtaking thriller.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A big fan of magic & illusion, I am always torn between the thrill of a great trick and knowing how it's done. This film lets us have both options - but you'll have to see it for yourself to understand why. A great illusion can indeed be magical, and Christopher Nolan's darkly gripping adaptation literally conjures up Victorian London in a new light, and with a vibrant ambiance as two popular magicians compete for the best and most spectacular tricks. These aren't some small time prestidigitators but superstar performers whose every trick ends in the resolution, known in magic circles as The Prestige - the third and final act in any magic trick. Like in the trick that makes a human disappear from inside a box; the audience is not too fussed about him disappearing: what will get them on their feet is his reappearance, preferably in an impossible manner and or place. A spectacular version of this trick is the prize that both Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are chasing.
The film is a brooding affair, despite the theatrical flourishes of Angier's performances; Borden is the more inventive engineer, but he doesn't have the showmanship. When the initial friendship is shattered, it's a deadly contest and we are held in the grip of the story thanks to Nolan's renowned skills in twisting stories inside out so as to avoid the simplistic, linear style that is not always required in film.
We invest in the furious battle because there is more at stake than a magic trick: each man has to sacrifice things near and dear to him in the process, and each man learns that obsession leads to trouble - or worse. Relationships are shattered, death claims innocent victims and eternal fame shimmers tantalisingly on the horizon.
Carefully crafted to ensure the film's own illusions are only revealed when they serve the story and our experience, The Prestige has the full body of genuine human drama and the exotic frisson of the world of illusion.
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PRESTIGE, THE (M)
CAST: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Samantha Mahurin, David Bowie, Andy Serkis,
PRODUCER: Christopher Nolan, Aaron Ryder, Emma Thomas
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
SCRIPT: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (novel by Christopher Priest)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wally Pfister
EDITOR: Lee Smith
MUSIC: David Julyan
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nathan Crowley
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 16, 2006