153 of 189 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christopher Nolan continues to impress with one of the best films of 2006.
2006 has been a quiet year for event films. The predicted blockbusters this past summer pretty much underperformed despite some being exactly as good as I thought they'd be. Other than Johnny Depp and the gang's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, every blockbuster didn't blow the industry out of the water. It's a very good thing that I had smaller films to tide...
Published on October 22, 2006 by A. Sandoc
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars GOOD BUT, A LITTLE LONG AND TEDIOUS!
I watched this movie within hours of watching 'The Illusionist'. I think I have had my fill of "magic" for a while. 'The Prestige' is a superior film to 'The Illusionist' in many ways. It was not as easy to see where it was going and the characters were more fleshed out. I did find it a little too long and tedious, with a trim here and there it would have made this a much...
Published on October 13, 2007 by ! MR. KNOW IT ALL ;-b
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153 of 189 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Christopher Nolan continues to impress with one of the best films of 2006.,
I've read Christopher Priest's novel about dueling late 19th-century London magicians. It's a novel written in epistolary format with each chapter and section written as entries into the journal of one of the main characters in the story. The novel itself is pretty straightforward as it tells the story in near chronological order. I was hesistant to embrace this film adaptation when I first heard about it since alot of the mystery of of the story wouldn't translate so well in film if they followed the strict order of how the story was told in the novel. For Christopher Nolan and his brother, Jonathan, to just adapt the novel straight-out would've made for a dull and boring mystery-thriller. I was glad that the Nolan brothers were inventive enough to borrow abit from Christopher Nolan's first feature film, Memento. Their film adaptation of The Prestige doesn't go backwards in its narrative, but it does mixes up the chronological order of the story somewhat, but not to the point that Tarantino does in Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. The two Nolans fudges abit with the timeline to add some backstory filler to help give the characters that Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman portrays with the reason for their pathological obsession with each other.
Christopher and Jonathan Nolan's screenplay for The Prestige was able to keep the mystery of the story intact, but it also keeps the amount of red herrings in such films to a minimum. Michael Caine's character, Harry Cutter, opens up the film explaining just exactly what constitutes a magic trick on stage. How it's divided into three parts. First, there's "The Pledge" wherein the magician shows the audience something ordinary he or she will use in the trick. Soon, the magician will follow this up with "The Turn" where the abovementioned ordinary object does something extraordinary in front of the audience. The pay-off of the magician's trick is "The Prestige" where the audience's astonishment occurs as they fail to deconstruct and figure out the means of the trick. That's pretty much the film in a nutshell. It's one big magic trick. The clues are there for the audience to see, gather and extrapolate their answer to the mystery that is the story. The screenplay doesn't treat the audience as if they need to be hand-held throughout the film. In fact, anyone who pays attention will be able to solve one-half of the mystery by the first hour. I won't say exactly whose half of the mystery it will be but people will be kicking themselves afterwards if they don't figure it out right away.
This magic trick of a film does have its many underlying layers of themes to add some complexity, drama and tension to the characters of Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman). I've already mentioned that throughout the film their mutual obsession about each other is due to a backstory detailing their past. A past where they were initially friends --- rivals even --- and apprentices to the magician Harry Cutter (excellently played by Michael Caine as the only voice of reason throughout the film). Borden and Angier's obsession is not just in ruining and sabotaging each other's magic tricks and lives, but also trying to find out each other's secrets as they both learn magic tricks which amaze and thrill the gentry of London's stage. From the beginning of the film these two characters begin a journey towards a path of destructive behavior which puts not just each other's lives at risk, but those who they care about. All of it in the name of humiliating and upstaging the other due to a tragic incident early in their mutual careers. These two individuals were not sympathetic characters and I applaud Christopher Nolan and his brother for not softening up their hard edges.
Most adaptors will try to make a story's characters more sympathetic and likable. They went the opposite in The Prestige. But even these two dark characters continue to exude the charisma and strong personalities that the audience will root for one or the other. Should they root for the charismatic and born shownman that Hugh Jackman's Angier character plays or go for the perfectionist Borden character Christian Bale plays. A perfectionist whose technical skills surpasses that of Angier's but whose introverted and brooding personality makes him little or no stage presence.
Both Jackman and Bale play their characters well. The film wouldn't be so good if it wasn't for the work of these two actors. It helps that they're surrounded by quality supporting character like Michael Caine as the seasoned, veteran mentor to the dueling magicians. Even Scarlett Johansson does very well with the part she's given. It's a part that many sees as more of a throwaway character. A piece of very good-looking distraction for both the story and the audience. But she gamely plays the role of pawn for both Angier and Borden. Unlike Michael Caine's character who remains the singular voice of sanity in the film, even Johansson's character of Olivia gets pulled into the obsessions and betrayals that's plagued both Angier and Borden. But in the end, she's just part of the process of "The Turn" and if people have been watching the film closely right from the beginning then she's also a clue as to the secret of one of the amazing magic tricks shown by the two magicians.
The Prestige also has a distinct look about it. The 19th-century London just before the start of the new millenium gives it a certain sense of Victorian-era familiarity. Production designer Nathan Crowley shows a London at the height of its Gilded Age, but soon gives way to a certain steampunk look as inventor Nikola Tesla makes an appearance during an integral part of the story. David Bowie portrays Tesla as an eccentric genius whose search for the secrets of the universe will lead to the discovery of what many of that era would consider magic. It's the ingenius looking technology created for the Tesla sequence which finally gives The Prestige it's root in fantasy and science-fiction. The film doesn't dwell on this new development but from that part of the story and until the end, the film takes on a look and feel of a steampunk mystery-thriller. There's not enough films that tries to mine this new subgenre and I, for one, am glad that Christopher Nolan added this new dimension to the film's overall look.
In the end, The Prestige really needs to be seen to be appreciated and for people to make up their minds about the film. Some will see it as a thriller with twists and turns that doesn't insult the intelligence of its audience. Some may see the film as just one large gimmick from start to end. Those people will probably be correct as well. The film at its most basic level is one long magic trick with all three acts. It has "The Pledge" which is then followed up by "The Turn" and then ends with "The Prestige". It will be up to each individual who sees the film to make the final decision as to whether they've bought into all three acts of the magic trick that is The Prestige, or come away having felt like they've wasted their time. I've not come across many who felt like the latter, even those whose own feelings about the film don't reach the same level of praise as I have for Christopher Nolan's latest offering. All I know is that this is a film that delivers on its premise to confound and amaze. It also continues to validate my views that Bruce Wayne and Batman are in very good hands with Christopher Nolan at the wheel. The Prestige is easily one of the best film of 2006.
123 of 153 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Obsession, Revenge and Magic--A Near Perfect Film Fumbles In The Last Act,
Set in the world of magic, two practitioners (Bale and Jackman) start out together in an act devised by Michael Caine. When a tragedy strikes, Jackman loses his wife and holds Bale accountable. Though they go their separate ways, they never mentally disconnect. Jackman plots revenge, Bale retaliates and their lives become a complex game of one-upmanship--as each strives to be the better illusionist, to boast the better trick. The film is a sleek and nasty mechanism as rage and jealousy propel the action. While this has left some people feeling cold--there is no one to particularly root for--I found it refreshingly mean spirited and believable. Jackman and Bale both give great, passionate performances. Whether or not you like the movie, I think it would be hard not to see that these are two undervalued performers getting a chance to do some "big" acting. Caine is terrific, as always, and Scarlett Johansson is perfect as a woman caught between the feuding warriors.
As you might expect from a Nolan film, there are some surprises--some tricks to be revealed in the film's prestige. Now I have an eye for movie "surprises," I guess I'm too suspicious or analytical. I figured out one of the primary surprises early on--but that didn't lessen my interest in the film, I was just as curious to see how it played out. The film is built in a multilayered flashback structure that is interesting and rewarding. It adds to the dramatic revelations of the final act. But there is a science fiction element that is dropped in at the last moment. And while I know that the film is actually based on a sci-fi work, this was the least compelling aspect of the film. In fact, it might have ruined a lesser movie altogether. After so much real emotion, such a fantastic setup, so much believability--this plot twist quickly brings what was a great film back to earth as a good one.
"The Prestige" is a satisfying and adult treat. It boasts some of the best performances of the year, and is beautiful and fascinating to look at. It's quality filmmaking, one that is recommended despite the shortcomings of the final payoff. KGHarris, 12/06.
35 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Films that Got Overlooked,
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and unsettling depiction of rivalry, revenge and magic,
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Pledge to Prestige,
The Prestige follows this structure...but not in sequence. Instead, most of the film is told in flashbacks through diaries, introducing the characters at the Turn of the trick and the movie before moving back to the Pledge with the two Victorian magicians at the beginnings of their relationship and rivalry. From that rivalry, a story is told that explores the depths these characters will go in order to keep the secrets that come with their profession and their obsession with learning each other's secrets in order to become the superior magician. While the reveal of their secrets, the Prestige, can be predicted, it doesn't make the reveal or the anticipation any less satisfying.
The film has an impressive cast, led by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as the rival magicians, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden. With two likeable leading men it was difficult to choose which character should come out as the winner of their rivalry or if either one should or even could. The characters' very different personalities undergo dramatic shifts, varying from charming to sinister, as they seek out their goals, needs change and secrets are revealed. The performances of both actors add greater depth and mystery to their characters, making them either more sympathetic or more suspicious depending on the event, the point of view or the reveal. With two such intense characters, Cutter, played by the legendary Michael Caine, puts the need for secrets in perspective as their guide and mentor while adding another, more objective view of the rivalry between the two magicians.
Adapted for the screen by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan and directed by Christopher Nolan, the flashbacks could make it difficult to keep track of the timeline, however that turns out not to be the case. Although the direction is at times a little heavy-handed and deliberate, it is also beautifully filmed with tones, sets and costumes that enhance the era of the story.
As with any magic trick, it's a little disappointing to have the secret of the trick fully revealed. That is also the case with The Prestige. However, it would be more disappointing if the secrets were left unknown. It's a gripping movie, filled with intense emotions that come from mystery, suspense, drama, romance and rivalry which make the journey extremely satisfying.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars impressive visuals and story,
The Prestige tells a tale of dueling magicians, Angier(Hugh Jackman) and Borden(Christian Bale). The movie is about them trying to one up the other and steal each other's secrets. I could tell you more of the story but I think its best to go into the movie knowing little like I did.
Beware, this is far from a straightforward movie. There are about 10 to 12 twists that are designed to confuse and throw off the audience whats really going on, much like the design of the magic trick that Cutter(Michael Cain) speaks of in the beginning of the movie. I have no doubt that many will be confused by the ending of this movie, yet its not as complicated as you think. The truth is blatantly put in front of you early on, but the movie tries to distract you from it.
Regardless of any twist, the movie has other merits as well. The production values are top notch, with every scene of the movie being eye candy, with lavish sets and amazing locations. It is faster paced than The Illusionist, and I believe the accents are better handled here. (For some reason on my second viewing of the Illusionist Edward Norton's accent seemed to go in and out) I was really impressed with Bale and Jackman in this movie.
Some of the highlights include the electric field in Colorado, the many magic acts and the final twist. Overall this is a great movie that works on almost every level. It edges out of the Illusionist for its pacing. See this in the theater for the amazing visuals.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you loved the edgier episodes of "The Twilight Zone" . . .,
It is essentially a psychodrama about a rivalry and obsession that goes out of control. The distinct difference is that this is a Steam Punk Victorian Era, which is only revealed at the end of the movie, and various Christophers associated with this project (writer, director) used the rivalry of magicians as the friction-point.
About one-third of the way through, my heart was broken because I could tell there were no heroes in the move. This is a credit to all involved, since it illustrates the point that obsession, rivalry, and revenge are like an oil slick: everyone is left greasy and dirty. Even the mentors who should have known better are dingy.
Additionally, the non-linear flashback/flash forward added to the theme. What we see is one odd lump of humanity. Again, this lumpiness reminds us of the sad results of obsession, rivalry, and revenge.
I do have one criticism. Tesla was portrayed as being cautious toward science. This is inaccurate. Even at this stage in his life, he still had a burning passion for science. His autobiography begins with these words, "The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention. It is the most important product of his creative brain. Its ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of the forces of nature to human needs. This is the difficult task of the inventor who is often misunderstood and unrewarded. But he finds ample compensation in the pleasing exercises of his powers and in the knowledge of being one of that exceptionally privileged class without whom the race would have long ago perished in the bitter struggle against pitiless elements."
Read "Tesla: Man Out Of Time" for a more accurate description of the Wizard of Colorado Springs.
Note: The ending almost left with a feeling of deus ex machine, but after reviewing this film--it is shuffled like "Citizen Kane"--I realized there were enough clues and proper set up for the semi-surprise ending.
PS--and yes, seeing Wolverine, Batman, Gollum, and Ziggy Stardust in one film makes it worth seeing.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superior to most,
Two magicians are close friends but because of a tragedy become bitter enemies. Unlike a previous reviewer I thought Christian Bales cockney accent was very convincing and Hugh Jackman without his Wolverine makeup is only just recognisable. Both lead actors are excellent and the supporting cast are good as well. David Bowie has an important cameo role in the film, on which the main plot hinges.
The plot is quite complicated to follow in places, so you do have to concentrate, as various sequences move backward or forward in time. OK you can't take it seriously, but there is an edgy atmosphere to the whole thing that kept me rivited to the screen. You shouldn't be to surprised at this though as the director is Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Memento) whose films, have to date proved to be of a consistently high standard.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dueling magicians in London a century ago,
Now if you are magician Robert Angier (Hugh Jackson) and you know that you are about to die, and in fact in a most unpleasant way by drowning, I think you might be a little hesitant to perform the trick, even though a replication of you will come to life and live on. Note that both the replication and the original Angier would want to live and prefer that the other be the one to die.
Nolan thought about this and that is why one is forced to die. Nolan probably would have himself preferred to keep the original and do away with the duplicate, but then the trick wouldn't work properly since the original would still be in place and not moved at all.
This is an old theme in science fiction and Nolan does not attempt to improve on it. And again that's okay. But another problem with the way the premise is handled is that, although surely Angier would want to go one up on his nemesis, fellow magician Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and dazzle the world with this amazing trick, he might have at some point just replicated some pound notes or some bullion. If Borden had gotten hold of the machine, maybe he could have replicated Scarlett Johansson so that he and Fallon could have one each for themselves. (And one for me would be nice as well.) Or he could have replicated his beloved daughter.
What I am pointing to is the irony in the way the machine was used as a vehicle for a magic trick. The trick as performed is so much less amazing than the real magic that could have been displayed, that of replicating enormously complex objects like human beings. Nobody in the film seems to realize this. This is perhaps the major--shall we say--plot cheesiness. Another, as pointed out elsewhere, is that the question Angier asks of Borden, "Which knot did you use?" The question is bogus as is his answer, "I don't know," since Julia was still tied and the knot could be seen. Also there is the question of what to do with all those bodies being created? We see them near the end of the film in the water boxes. Seems a bit of a stretch to make all those new boxes and just leave the bodies there. Somebody might call the bobbies, don't you think?
For these reasons I am beginning to wonder if Nolan is getting a little careless or if he has been corrupted by success to the point where he no longer cares about logical consistency and artistic rigor. Perhaps we'll see in his next opus. However scheduled for release next year is The Dark Knight another Batman caper starring Christian Bale.
Putting all this aside, the movie is entertaining and thought provoking. Nolan's time-stirred delineation of the plot is done well and kept this viewer interested. I also liked the razor sharp psychological tension created between Borden and Angier as they compete against each other. And the many surprising plot twists and turns--something that Nolan does very well--were nice.
And the cast was excellent. Michael Caine who plays the old magician and front man Cutter was perfect, and the glimpse or two we get of Scarlett Johansson was more than agreeable. Bale and Jackson were very good as well. But I especially liked Rebecca Hall who played Borden's wife Sarah. I thought she was outstanding.
Now that Christopher Nolan has had back to back commercial successes with Batman Begins (2005), and The Prestige (2006), maybe it's time to think about where his career is going. Is he going to become a film maker known for his artistry like Stanley Kubrick or a film maker who knows how to appeal to the marketplace like Steven Spielberg? On the one hand there are Nolan's artistic films, Memento (2000) and Insomnia (2002) and on the other hand there are his big screen commercial successes, this film and Batman Begins. Knowing the constraints placed on film makers by the need to get funding and to turn a profit, it may be that he is trying to be both. In fact perhaps the best way to look at The Prestige and Batman Begins is to recognize that they are artistic films made within industry constraints that require mass market appeal.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Takes Two,
This review is from: The Prestige [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)NOTE: If you're wondering whether the Blu Ray purchase is a worthy one over the DVD, it is. The picture quality is consistenly completely smooth with a wonderful sense of depth that really shines through. The audio, meanwhile, is subdued but wonderfully so. The uncompressed surround is terrific. Now that the tech specs are out of the way, onto the bulk:
Ever since Christopher Nolan's little seen movie entitled Following, I knew we had a director worth keeping an eye on. Following that up with Memento was perfection and then there was the oft overlooked Insomnia. Then, he reinvented the Batman saga. However, scrunched between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight was this little movie about magic, named The Prestige. Actually, it wasn't really about magic. It's about obsession, misdirection and mysterious plot twists...pretty much par for the course.
Nolan has crafted a fine story that runs like a trainwreck. From the first death in the film, you know that things can't end happily. At every corner, each magician tries to top the other, but neither is strong enough to know when to stop. And what happens when someone has a trick that is utterly impossible to pull off? How do you top it? By doing the unimaginable.
And it's the unimaginable that will either make you love or loathe this film.
When I saw The Prestige in the theatres back in 2006, I left feeling a little bit cheated. After a pitch perfect first two acts, in which Jackman's Angier and Bale's Borden continued to try and upstage/get back at each other, Christopher Nolan (and brother Jonathan) threw an utter curveball that seemd to not only stretch my belief in what I was watching but completely seemed out of place. I thought about the movie for a long time and decided that I ultimately didn't like it.
The other day, it was playing on a movie channel and I managed to catch it just as the opening credits were running. "I'll just watch a little bit of it," I thought and ended up staying for the entire runtime. I bring this up because what I find so thrilling and interesting about The Nolans is just how well-constructed (to a fault) their movies are. The continual moving back and forth in time is nothing new to them (Following, Memento), but the way it's constructed, perfectly, as the three acts of a magic trick is pure...well, magic.
And watching through it a second time illuminated just how early they set up the events. The twisting third act no longer seemed utterly incredulous (only just semi-incredulous). The other not-so-out-there twist seemed incredily "duh!" but what was perfectly appropriate was simply how well a fairly obvious answer is hidden in plain sight and yet, not seen.
In the end, the final lines speak volumes: "Now you're looking for the secret. But you wont find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be...fooled."
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The Prestige [Blu-ray] by Christopher Nolan (Blu-ray - 2007)
In stock on December 11, 2013