Two magicians become bitter rivals who strive to create the
perfect magic trick, a feat that leads them down a dark path.
The Prestige (2006)
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, David Bowie, Andy Serkis, Piper Perabo
Based on the novel by Christopher Priest
Oscar Nominations - Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction
Christopher Nolan is one of the few filmmakers in Hollywood who is consistent with the quality of his work, and I believe that The Prestige stands out amongst his impressive resume. This is a film driven by obsession, particularly the obsessions of rival magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). Both Jackman and Bale deliver flawless performances as men on the brink of madness, both of them desperate to win their sick game of one-upmanship. Nolan treats the film like one giant magic trick, misleading the audience to the very end, where our minds are blown by the big reveal. Even after seeing it many times, I am still shocked by how incredible this film is.
The three parts of a magic trick are the pledge, where the magician shows you something ordinary, the turn, where he makes it disappear, and the prestige, where he brings it back. This motif is told to us repeatedly throughout the film, reminding us that what we are watching is almost like an illusion in itself. I admire how this film incorporates the work of Nikola Tesla, played to perfection by David Bowie, into Angier's final trick. Granted, this is where the film takes a sharp turn into sci-fi territory. However, it fits so well with the rest of the film that you are simply amazed at what Tesla is capable of doing. The bitter rivalry between Angier and Borden takes both characters into realms of dark misdeeds and dangerous choices, where Nolan shows how obsession can destroy you from the inside.
I could watch this film any day of the week and find something new to be amazed by. Apart from the Dark Knight Trilogy, The Prestige is my favorite of Christopher Nolan's films. It's one of the few movies to delve into the bizarre world of turn of the century magicians, who were so protective of their trade secrets that they would kill to preserve it. The characters of this film are no different, as evidenced by their complete devotion to their craft. The Prestige is a brilliant look into that world and will have you on the edge of your seat from the very beginning.