I am not a man that desires to be envied. Yes, I do have an over inflated sense of ego and other blatant character flaws. I do hope you envy the fact that I’ve seen The Prestige (based on the 1996 novel by Christopher Priest) before you did. This is one of the few movies I’ve been waiting for this year. If you’ve seen the trailers and didn’t crap your pants at the possibilities of this movie, don’t waste your time reading on. And for those of you reading on, don't fret. There are no spoilers.
Michael Caine sets the audience up in the first scene with the statement, “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.” I spent the majority of the film looking for minutia. I sifted through the background of each scene trying to get one leg up on the plot. This is half the fun of the movie. The visuals and sets are almost crowed with seeming innocuous items that one strains to cull through. Director Chris Nolan seamlessly manages all these elements without overwhelming the audience.
Structurally, the film is set up in a series of flash back and forwards as the main characters read each other’s diaries. Stylistically, it reminds me of Dead Again. With I’m sure had something to do with Emma Thompson being the Executive Producer. Like all good magic shows, the harder you try to grasp the secret of a trick, the more astounding the trick is when it happens. The Prestige is a magic trick on film. Sit back and enjoy the show, but make sure you watch closely or you'll miss the trick entirely.
The “Pledge” centers around the rivalry of two magicians in late 1890’s
The plot sounds straight forward enough, doen't it? Add in the dynamics of the supporting cast to the plot and the “Turn” complecates matters. Michael Caine (Cutter) is the man behind the magic with a seemingly simple agenda. Scarlett Johansson (Olivia), is the Hottie McHot Hot assistant who loves too much. Then enter David Bowie as Nikola Tesla for the steam punk sci-fi twist. While the screen rivalry between Tesla and Thomas Edison mirrors that of Angier and Borden, it's not quite factual. Tesla and Edison's issue came up after the time of the film. Minor point.
Now for the “Prestige”. We’ll I’m not going to spoil anything for you. I haven’t kicked myself for not figuring out an ending this hard since the Sixth Sense. Go see it, and remember that Doug Henning is not the only one that can create a World of Illusion…