Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Prestigious Prestige

On Friday, I saw The Prestige. This movie stars Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Michael Caine, with appearances by Piper Perabo (of Coyote Ugly fame), Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, and David Bowie. Directed by Christopher Nolan (of Memento and Batman Begins fame).

Plot Summary:
A mysterious story of two magicians whose intense rivalry leads them on a life-long battle for supremacy -- full of obsession, deceit and jealousy with dangerous and deadly consequences. From the time that they first met as young magicians on the rise, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden were competitors. However, their friendly competition evolves into a bitter rivalry making them fierce enemies-for-life and consequently jeopardizing the lives of everyone around them. Set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London.
That's the plot but this is the background (a quote from the movie):
Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called "The Pledge"; The magician shows you something ordinary, but of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn"; The magician makes his ordinary some thing do something extraordinary. Now if you're looking for the secret... you won't find it, that's why there's a third act called, "The Prestige"; this is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you've never seen before.
I rather enjoyed this movie. The actors and actresses are top notch. Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Michael Caine all put forth excellent performances. The story is very compelling, especially since it is told in a discontinuous nature. That is, it begins with Christian Bale in jail, having been accused of murdering Hugh Jackman. Much of the story is told in flashbacks from that point, showing the audience how things began and where they went. You get to see Hugh Jackman suffer a devastating loss that instigates the ongoing feud between the two master magicians. And you also get to see what happens when obsession leads down a dark and dangerous path.

I particularly enjoyed how the unfolding story showed the evolution of the characters. Hugh Jackman proves unable to let go, unable to move past his horrible loss. Meanwhile, Christian Bale proves unable to move forward with his life, or at least certainly not in a forthright manner. The Tesla plot twist is interesting and serves to highlight the depths of Jackman's desperation. (Although it is a bit odd given the otherwise realistic setting.) There are a few slick plot twists, some of which you may see from a mile away but some that will (hopefully) surprise you. All in all, a very entertaining movie, though perhaps a bit dark. Then again, what is magic if not mysterious?