The Prestige


Reviewed by: Chris

The Prestige
"Director Christopher Nolan performs a sinister and chilling sleight of hand that forces us to look closely at every frame, just as we did in his backwards-moving masterpiece Memento."

Cinema and stage magicians share a common secret about us, the viewers: we don't want to believe the reality - we enjoy the sensation of being transported to a world where we can gasp at the magic. "The secret impresses no one: the trick you use it for is everything." Exploiting this parallel in a darkly sinister period piece, The Prestige weaves a tense and gripping tale of a fatal feud between two rival magicians.

In the skilfully recreated Victorian London, Director Christopher Nolan performs another sinister and chilling sleight of hand that forces us to look closely at every frame, just as we did in his backwards-moving masterpiece Memento (about a desperate man trying to avenge his wife's murder while suffering from the loss of all short-term memory). The two magicians (played by Bale and Jackman) are poised somewhere between being scientists and conmen and are prepared to risk all for the secret of the greatest stage trick ever - and the two women in their lives weave in and out trying to discover the inner secrets of these men with whom they are involved. Seeing the story from several angles, the viewer shifts perspectives to work out what is real.

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Almost like another conjuring trick, David Bowie and, to an extent, all the actors except Michael Caine, are subsumed in their characters and barely recognisable at first glance. Caine, as the magician's ingeneur (the person who designs illusions behind the scenes) is a lynchpin, giving a powerful and convincing performance. Scarlett Johansson, as the inexperienced but devoted magician's assistant, creeps up on us subtly and, thrown between the two main characters, is another one who might not be all she seems.

Cutter (Michael Caine) explains the format: "Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called The Pledge: the magician shows you something ordinary but, of course, it probably isn't. The second act is called The Turn. The magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary. Now, if you're looking for the secret, you won't find it. That's why there's a third act, called The Prestige. This is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you've never seen before."

Gone is the image of the jolly magician. This is no Paul Daniels era of hocus pocus. If it goes wrong, things might get nasty. If it goes right, you are left with that gasp of amazement on your face that every magician craves and every filmmaker seeks. Perhaps the feeling is more important than deciding whether you actually want to find out or be fooled. Whodunnit or thriller, The Prestige is a rather clever piece of entertainment.

Reviewed on: 06 Nov 2006
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The Prestige packshot
A tale of bitter rivalry between two 19th century magicians.
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Read more The Prestige reviews:

Sam Moore *****
Angus Wolfe Murray ****

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, based on the novel by Christopher Priest

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Samantha Mahurin, David Bowie, Andy Serkis

Year: 2006

Runtime: 128 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US/UK


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