by Andrew James
The beginning of the movie actually takes place towards the end of the story, so we already know sort of where we will end up. It's the hows and whys that keep us interested. The Prestige premise starts off simple: two men, once both friendly assistants to a magician's show, become bitter rivals after an on-stage accident takes one of their loved ones from them. They develop a serious rivalry in which they constantly try to one-up the other's show and dismantle their personal life. One man is so obsessed with learning the secrets of the other's illusions, that sometimes these attempts to upstage or bring down one another is dangerous, cold hearted and borders on sick. Because of this fact, I'm still not sure who the good guy is and who the bad guy is. There is no clear protag/antag dynamic.
Bale and Jackman give relatively decent performances but nothing like what we've usually come to expect from men of their caliber; especially in Bale's case. Caine is his usual great self and plays the perfect supporting role. Johansson, over-rated as always, plays a lovely assistant that could've been portrayed by anyone. The real break-out role, in my opinion, was the role of Nikola Tesla, played by none other than David Bowie. Bowie's presence lights up the screen with intrigue and mysticism. If this is the kind of stuff he is capable of, he deserves to be in the upper eschelons of A-list Hollywood; not a second rate, musical has-been. This writer looks forward very much to more of his on-screen presence.
The plot kept me involved from start to finish and I was never totally lost, but it wasn't for a lack of trying on the film's part. Hard to read flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks make it difficult to know when and where we are in the story. It doesn't take long to figure it out, but I feel I missed key elements while I struggled to regain my bearings before again following the story line.
The ambience and style is classic Nolan. The lights are dim; the outdoors misty and overcast with an ominous ambience that keeps the audience in their element. I appreciate this art when it comes to Nolan and it does not go unnoticed.
The problem I had with the film, besides the aforementioned problems of continuity, was the overall ludicrous premise. A story of obsession (which all Nolan's films seem to be about come to think of it) that isn't really all that believeable. I had no idea why these men were truly doing what they were doing and it was hard for me to believe that anyone would stoop to these levels simply for a stupid magic trick. An eye for an eye mentality does not suffice for these men. It becomes an eye for an eye for an eye for an eye story.
You'll be wating for the big trick or twist at the end; and althoguh there is one, it's not too difficult to see it coming (for the most part). On top of this, half of it has to do with a more science fiction and unrealistic plot device that seems uncharacteristic of the rest of the film.
Though definitely a handsome film, with great settings, costumes and ambience, The Prestige is still second rate compared to this year's other magician movie, The Illusionist. In terms of acting, story and fun, the latter proves much more entertaining with less depression. Nolan's film relies more heavily on drama and a convoluted story more than theatrics. Still, I was never uninterested and the movie held my attention from start to finish. Even if the final act (aka "the prestige") failed to impress completely, I was watching closely.
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
FLIXSTER PROFILE for The Prestige