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The Prestige

Director Christopher Nolan's dark 2006 thriller about the fierce rivalry between two magicians.

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Engrossing and unsettling depiction of rivalry, revenge and magic

  • Jan 9, 2007
Rating:
+3
The Prestige works on many levels, as a character study and a depiction of rivalry and revenge, as a period piece that illuminates the ingenuity and sacrifice and risk required to carry off the trickery and deception of stage magic. It is a very entertaining film, that captivated my attention throughout, was very well acted (especially by Christian Bale) and very well paced. It is, moreover, a film that does not commit the usual crime of Hollywood films of dumbing things down for its audience. Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker who obviously respects his audience, expects them to be capable of piecing things together, and doesn't lay everything out. (A recent film that is guilty of this sin is "Lucky Number Slevin" which was very entertaining but would have been much more interesting if the directors didn't feel the need to explain everything that anyone who had been paying attention would have already gotten, in great detail in the concluding scenes). Most interesting, I think, is the ending of the film, an ending many other reviewers take to have been a kind of fraud or cop out. As I read the film, the director uses this ending very deliberately to call attention to his own manipulation of audience expectations in the preceding parts of the film. While the methods of the "magic" in the end evoke horror and disgust, they in fact serve only as a grotesque mirror of the sacrifice required by the trickery that is depicted throughout. In hindsight, the ending can be seen to be prefigured by a very early scene in which we see how a bird is made to disappear and reappear. We accept and admire the skill and sacrifice and risk of the artists to a point -- but only when we have the security that in the end none of it is real. We want to suspend disbelief, but would be horrified if we truly believed. At some level, I think this functions as an intriguing reflection on what audiences want in film: we tend to want what we see to be as realistic as possible without crossing a line to make us believe it is really real -- brutal and bloody depictions of gratuitous violence are okay, and the more lifelike the better, but images of actual violence drawn from contemporary wars generate outrage. A film that can simultaneously do the job of being slick and entertaining, and at the same time raise intriguing and profound questions about the nature of entertainment, and of audience expectations, and of the relation between image and reality is definitely worth a look. I know I'll be seeing it again.

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More The Prestige reviews
review by . July 01, 2011
Warner Bros. DVD review
I've not much to type of Christoper Nolan's finest accomplishment that hasn't been stated before. At this juncture, it wouldn't be unfair for the Nolans to abandon non-linear plotting; they've exploited the conceit so thoroughly here in conjunction with numerous interrelated visual metaphors in order to fully explore a variety of Victorian themes: the thrill of technology-driven entrepreneurship during the onset of modernity, science as magic explained and the nature of dualistic …
review by . December 30, 2009
A mind bending and twist a minute thriller....
I've seen some movies that try to blow your mind, I've seen some movies that try to challenge you and make you believe in the unimaginable. The Prestige does both, it challenges you while making you think you know what is going on and just when you have it all figured out it throws a Monkey wrench into your plans and leaves you totally baffled and dumbfounded even after the ending, so the real question is what is true in this film? and what is a lie?         The Prestige …
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A few flaws, however a great , great film. Chris Nolan has yet to make a bad film. Christian Bale is oscar-worthy is this movie.
review by . May 15, 2009
The Prestige
The Prestige is probably one of the most underrated films of this this past decade.  With such a great cast that included Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson, this great drama/thriller did not get all the attention it deserved.  This probably had a lot to do with the fact that The Illusionist was released around the same time of The Prestige.  One thing is for sure, this film was pure magic.      The Prestige follows two magicians, …
review by . September 09, 2009
Two rival magicians in the late 1800’s.  Each trying to sabotage each other, outdo each other, and decode the secrets of each others tricks.  The twists and turns in this movie never seem to end.  The story even brings in Houdini’s water closet escape trick as well as the great scientist Tesla.  The story does exaggerate a lot about Tesla but it seems to work in this film.   The acting is first class and Michael Caine puts in another great supporting spot.  …
review by . January 13, 2008
Pros: Great story-line and performances; outstanding direction.     Cons: Hard to wrap your mind around at first...     The Bottom Line: In the final analysis The Prestige is a complicated intelligent tale that genuinely beguiles and entertains.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. According to The Prestige (2006) there is difference between a magician and a wizard; the former entertains with gimmickry, …
review by . April 18, 2007
There were many surprises at this year's Academy Awards. One of the biggest was the absence of nominations for several films, most noticeably this one. Containing no sex, no nudity, no bad language, no gore, no grand action scenes, minimal comedy, a non-descript sountrack, and only several seconds of violence, this movie has none of the hallmarks of a top movie. But a top movie it is; it sat atop the box office charts for a month and everyone who has seen it comes away impressed. This is one of …
review by . April 17, 2007
This movie has certainly captured the art of magic, its complexities and wonder. As two friends' different philosophies on magic set tensions in motion, it is a tragic death that forever puts a wedge between them. A rivalry ensues between the more penetrating Borden (Bale) and the showman Angiers (Jackman). With three different time lines moving all at once through most of the movie, there's really never a moment's boredom. This storytelling is efficient and compelling. The characters are rich--they …
review by . March 31, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Probably the single most...different movie plot I've ever seen.     Cons: Sometimes hard to follow the heavy English accents     The Bottom Line: Don't look away...     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. Are you watching closely?      I’d heard all sorts of good things about The Prestige so one day when my mother and I were out running errands, we decided to pop into the …
review by . March 29, 2007
Two rival magicians (Jackman and Bales) in the late 1800's. Each trying to sabotage each other, outdo each other, and decode the secrets of each others tricks. The twists and turns in this movie never seem to end. The story even brings in Houdini's water closet escape trick as well as the great scientist Tesla. The story does exaggerate a lot about Tesla but it seems to work in this film.    The acting is first class and Michael Caine puts in another great supporting spot. Scarlett …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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The Prestige represents the second film that Christopher Nolan directed that Christian Bale starred in; the first was Batman Begins. 

Christian Bales character in The Prestige was named Alfred.  Alfred is the name of the Michael Canes character in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.  Cane has co-starred with Bale in all three of these films, coincidentally directed by the same director of all three, Christopher Nolan. 




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