The Prestige

Christopher Nolan

BY James KeastPublished Feb 25, 2007

It’s so nice to see director Christopher Nolan continue working between Batman franchise epics - and so quickly, with less than a year between the completion of The Prestige’s screenplay (co-written with brother/collaborator Jonathan) and its premiere. Nolan maintains some continuity by working with Christian Bale (as a brilliant magician) and Michael Caine (as a trick designer), both of whom he’ll see again on The Dark Knight, and in the lead, Hugh Jackman does a nice job essaying a rival 19th century magician. While Nolan plays effectively with the ostensible story - two magicians attempting to outdo each other - he is also addressing the magic of movies, how they’re presented and how we absorb them. In the story, as in the film, there are three parts: "the pledge” (what’s going on), "the turn” (what the hell just happened) and "the prestige” (the reveal). Despite his claims to the contrary in the DVD extras, it’s fairly evident to the audience - at least one who’s endured the recent work of M. Night Shyamalan - that the film we’re watching is just such a trick. And like Shyamalan, we sit back and wait to be impressed once the turn comes. There’s always some doubt in these kinds of "reveal”-oriented films - does the answer, when we figure it out, contain the whole of the film in it? At their best, arguably, they do: in Shyamalan’s case, The Sixth Sense impacts the entire viewing experience both the first and the second time you see it. The ending defines it as a film; its success is the film’s success (just as the reveal of The Village is the film’s failure). The Prestige’s mysteries aren’t as film shattering but the movie itself - with its nods to Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) and the world-changing emergence of technology - is better, more ambitious and interesting. Nolan features prominently in the DVD’s only extra, discussing the film’s images and nods to magic symbolism, but the film contains all the magic required.
(Touchstone/Buena Vista)

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