I never did get a chance to see The Illusionist – I hope to do so sometime this awards season, since I had heard some good things about it. But there is another movie that focuses on magic, The Prestige. Directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins), the film is about a rivalry between two magicians: Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). Told through a variety of flashbacks, the film slowly unfolds like a magic trick. As Cutter (Michael Caine) explains in the first few minutes, every magic trick has three parts: The Pledge (the magician shows you something ordinary), The Turn (the magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary), and the final part is The Prestige (“the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you’ve never seen before”). It is this last and third part that appropriately describes the film.
After the tragic death of Angier’s wife during a magic trick – which he blames on Borden – the two friends turn rivals, always trying to one-up each other, until one day Borden comes up with a trick so amazing that it will spark an obsession in Angiers that will take him across the globe, from London to Colorado. There, he studies Borden’s diary (which he had stolen with the help of his assistant Olivia Wenscombe (Scarlett Johansen)), and meets with electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla (David Bowie). I won’t go into too many details, but as Caine had predicted above, there were a lot of turns and twists, with lives hanging in the balance.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the film – it’s one of those movies that the marketing leads you to believe one thing, but then you realize it’s another thing. The cinematography is appropriately golden and bleak, and the pacing is quite good. It’s one of those movies where I think multiple viewings will reveal more clues as to the twists at the end, and I plan on seeing it again. It’s not a great film, but it’s very well done and an easy film to recommend checking out.