The Prestige Review
The Prestige is a 2006 mystery drama film directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in the lead roles.
It follows two rival stage musicians in the 19th century that compete with each other with tragic consequences. It is a tale about obsession, secrecy, rivalry and sacrifice and those themes are solidly explored, although because there are too many of them, not all of them get proper treatment. But the story is overall very engaging and at times quite riveting. Some of the middle parts are forgettable, but the last act is the standout as it is a perfect conclusion with a very satisfying twist. Unlike the twist in ‘Memento‘, I found this one more believable and easier to understand. This twist is much better in my opinion and the overall story is easier to follow, but on the other hand, it is at times too easy and not as smart as it thinks it is.
The characters I found solid, but not great. The two protagonists, Angier and Borden, are great when their profession and obsession is concerned, but they barely get any development in other areas and the relationship aspect I found rather unexplored here. Cutter is a very good character with some very powerful quotes and Tesla is solidly imagined with an intriguing backstory. As for the women, they pale in comparison to the male characters.
But the acting is excellent across the board with Jackman and Bale being the standouts. Both give terrific performances here and both get their heartbreaking and powerful moments. Michael Caine is also very good and Scarlett Johansson is solid, but this is above all a great vehicle for Bale and Jackman who drive the movie.
It has a pretty suave direction from Nolan with some excellent imagery, but I wish the photography wasn’t as dark as I find that extremely annoying. The script is uneven in the middle, but it is mostly very polished and the editing is good, except for that middle part. The acting is great as is the tone and dialogue which is stupendous. The movie is visually appealing, but it would have been even more powerful had it been lighter. It is a very memorable and in some respects even an authentic movie as we rarely get to see this subject matter explored in movies. It does have a brain, but it also has a heart which I found very pleasing. It is very heartwarming at times and it is even devastating in the end. The actors greatly convey emotion and add a lot to the movie’s emotional intensity.
If I had to compare it with other Nolan’s films, I would honestly say it is my favorite film from his after ‘Interstellar‘ and it is a shame that both audiences and critics do not agree and both are not big fans. It has its problems, but the overall fascinating nature of it is what makes it really good. And I like its execution in that it is propelled with realism, but that it also mixes some real magic in there later on. The mix is executed in a great way and it is never jarring.