I am tickled when a movie convincingly capture a time gone by. Of course, I really do not know how accurately the movie The Prestige portrays the time near the end of the 19th century, but it sure feels authentic. However, I also like a movie that keeps me guessing right up until the end. If you add handsome leading men (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) and top-tier established character actors then this movie should have all the right ingredients to ensure your satisfaction.
Fortunately, in addition to all these traits, the movie is well acted and finely directed. The plot consists of two rival magicians who are obsessed with learning and spoiling each other’s secrets. Most of the movie takes place in London, where the competition for top-flight magicians is depicted as cutthroat. Michael Caine plays an aging magician named Cutter who helps the up and coming magician Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) come up with ever more impressive magic acts. Mostly though, Angier obsesses at his rival Alfred Borden’s (Christian Bale) ability to transport himself from one side of the stage to the other instantly.
Trying to find a way to do it himself, Angier ends up in Colorado Springs with Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), a real life rival of Thomas Edison and something of a mad scientist. Using oversized Van de Graaff generators, he hopes Tesla and his assistant Alley (Andy Serkis) might be able to develop a device that will teleport him from one location to another. I will not give out more because it will spoil too much of the plot. Suffice to say that Tesla may be on to something, and Angier may have a way to out stage Borden.
The plot has more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel. If you are sufficiently sharp like my wife (who saw the movie with me) you will probably solve most of the hanging questions, but a few will leave you puzzling until the very end. However, this strange, somewhat fantastic, odd and lovingly realized film should fully command your attention. It will confuse you from time to time. (The many transpositions in time are hard to sort through.)
The Prestige is simply a classy, well-crafted, very well done movie. It will hold you in the magician’s spell. In this case, the magician is the director Christopher Nolan, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Nolan also directed Batman Begins, which is likely why he chose Christopher Bale and Michael Caine for this movie. (Both starred in Batman Begins.) While there is nothing in the movie that gives it a landmark or “must be seen” status, it is high entertainment. Just as The Sting convincingly captured the 1930s, The Prestige captures the end of the 19th century and the bizarre world of magicians in a very memorable way. It will win your appreciation and make you feel your time in the theater was well worth the inflated ticket price.
I rate The Prestige 3.5 out of 4 stars.