Film review: The Prestige

28 January 2013

"Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called 'The Pledge'. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called 'The Turn'. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call 'The Prestige'. "

Based on a book by Christopher Priest, that I've not read, The Prestige tells an atmospheric story of two magicians that have a fierce professional and personal rivalry.

The lead cast are competent but overall are not amazing. It's the script and direction that shines. The leads use a mixture of accents that on occasion distract. But Hugh Jackman and Christian Gale as the magicians, supported by Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson do deliver some outstanding performances in many of the key scenes.

Christopher Nolan's direction is outstanding with tight editing, good cinematography, very little obvious CGI use, to create another movie that lends itself to multiple watchings. It's not as convoluted as either Memento or Inception, but The Prestige also shows Nolan to have a clear interest in the nature of reality and a sense of playfulness with narrative structure.

The story jumps between times within the lead characters' lives but it never becomes confusing when or in what order events happened. Instead, the surprises, and nuances that tease, come from a great story rather than the non-linear structure of the film.

The movie is really really good even though many of the twists are guessable (and we did). Ironically the one major twist that neither Sarah nor me saw coming, was the one that was in plainest sight all the way through. Watch for the small details!

Looking back, the film follows its own mantra: The pledge, the turn and the prestige.