The Prestige (2006) Directed by Christopher Nolan. With Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson. Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall and Andy Serkis.
“Are you watching closely?”, asks Christian Bale’s Alfred Borden. Based on a novel by Christopher Priest and co-adapted by the brothers Nolan, The Prestige is a film with real intellect behind it. Through tragedy, two rival magicians (Bale and Jackman) pit their wits against each other in late 19th century London.
With Nolan occupying the director’s chair, an all-star cast has become something of given. Sure enough, the film is co-headlined by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, with an array of A-list talent in supporting roles. Of course, with a Chris Nolan film, the real star of the show is the idea behind it.
Visually, the film relies on light and shadow, as Wally Pfister’s cinematography carries over many of the themes from Batman Begins. Fittingly for the period, it’s murky, with plenty of gothic beauty, which reinforces a sense of the uncanny. Perhaps the sombre tone could be alienating, for some, but away from the glossy distractions of a modern-day telling, it helps to keep the movie grounded.
The film is structured in that non-linear Nolan way, which, in a sense, is a further tool of distraction for the audience. Moreover, there are clever clues scattered throughout the film (if you look and listen very closely) which could serve to hint about what’s unfolding. Of course, it’s only on repeat viewings that we spot these things, but it reminds us of how Nolan enjoys teasing his audience, moreover, inviting us to play detective during his films.
Like any great magic trick, The Prestige keeps us guessing as our eyes search the screen for clues of what may or may not be afoot. It’s in this sense, that we’re kept alert and involved with the plot, anxious not to miss the sleight of hand, but at the same time, anxious to be wowed by it. 4.5/5