Jul 25, 2009

[Movies] The Prestige (2006)

The PrestigeYou ever notice how Hollywood studios somehow manage to come up with similar movie concepts around the same time and end up releasing them as competitors to one another? It's one of the clearest signs of the ultra-competitiveness of the industry and perhaps a healthy dose of industrial espionage, but it does keep things interesting.

Before we had our asteroid movies, namely Armageddon and Deep Impact. Later on in 2006 there were a number of films about magic and illusions and until today it becomes far to easy to confuse the titles for one another.

After putting it off for ages, I finally got around to watching one of the two films that I had been long meaning to do, and it certainly was an interesting experience. Let's take a closer look, shall we?

The Prestige is an interesting look at the competitiveness of the magician's trade, especially in older times when it was a primary form of entertainment. At the core of the story are Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), once apprentices to the Milton the Magician and now competitors in the magical illusion trade. The movie documents their escalating levels of competition until it gets too far and one manages to kill the other.

Magic has always been something that has fascinated me ever since I was a kid and so it was fun to explore that secret world of sorts in this film. The role of Cutter (Michael Caine) as Alfred's "illusion engineer" was particularly striking since he had the function of creating the various trick sets and props used in the performances that would fool the audience and show us the magical extravaganza we ask for. The filmmakers wisely chose not to get too deeply into things so as not to turn this strictly into a feature-length version of Magic's Greatest Secrets Revealed.

Christian BaleChristian Bale via last.fm

The actors cast for the role turned out pretty good. We already knew that Bale and Caine would be comfy working together given their prior work for Batman Begins, but it was rather surprising how convincing Hugh Jackman was as an obsessed competitor to Bale and how his own desperation to "one up" his colleague drove him to significant lengths.

Scarlett Johanson did a particularly good job at portraying Olivia, Angier's assistant and love interest. She does a remarkable job of playing both sides of the conflict, as it were, and ends up being a lot more than just a pretty face.

There's definitely a dark tone to the entire film that Christopher Nolan managed well enough. We're used to magic being treated as something light and whimsical and yet here it takes on a somber and almost sinister tone, which reflects the fact that this rivalry does end up taking casualties and thus is no laughing matter. Over time you start to see patterns in how he executes films - there are definite similarities between Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. I'll leave it to you to figure out the pattern.

The overall story and execution behind The Prestige was just pretty amazing. It manages to accomplish so many things - it paints the picture of the role magicians played in a world before TV and movies, it captured the sense of intense rivalry between the two protagonists, it illustrated just how magic tricks are developed out of practical (and sometimes scientific) concepts and a whole lot more. It manages all of this without feeling too long, getting overly dragging and clearly staying focused on the message that Nolan wanted to deliver.

The Prestige more than deserves 4 Tesla Coils out of a possible 5.

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  1. "Over time you start to see patterns in how he executes films - there are definite similarities between Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. I'll leave it to you to figure out the pattern."

    DEK: you have to add Memento as it started the pattern ... seriously ... hehehe

  2. @Moeru Hime:

    Ack, I still need to get around to watching that! I promise I will in time...