Are you watching closely? No, well, you should be. Why should you, you ask? Well, because every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts, that’s why. I mean it’s magic, a trick can’t be great if there’s only one to two parts, it just doesn’t work. The same goes for Christopher Nolan films. If you think about it, it goes for all films not just his but, you feel that magic (pun intended) with every film Nolan creates and releases. There’s only a few directors that can have you on the edge of your seat with every film they put out having your finger glued to the rewind button for certain scenes just to watch them again and again. Nolan is that kind of director, he’s a perfectionist making sure every shot is presented in a way that makes you second guess what you’re watching is actually happening. His films have a way of grabbing you in such a way that if you don’t pay attention or look away or even blink (you should probably blink) you will miss either a plot point or a detail that will pop up later. His filmography from top to bottom is captivating and unique and his films are what Hollywood needs.
Alfred Borden is standing trial for the murder of his friend Robert Angier. The two are magicians who work together in an act with Roberts girlfriend Piper who escapes being drowned in a tank of water with her arms and legs tied together. With the aid of their associate Cutter they put on a show that dazzles the audience each and every night. Robert and Alfred act as strangers that get pulled on stage to assist Piper with her trick. Robert almost gives it away that the two men aren’t strangers to Piper but luckily no one in the audience sees. The very next show, Alfred ties Piper’s wrists differently therefore she cannot escape the ropes and actually drowns. Robert blames Alfred for intentionally killing his girlfriend and the two break up as a team. The two begin their own magic careers as Alfred debuts his new trick, “The Transported Man” where he walks through one door and instantly comes out at the opposite end. Unaware of how Alfred performs this trick, Robert attempts to duplicate the trick using a doppelganger. Although Angier’s imitation produces more success, he becomes obsessed with figuring out how Alfred does his version.
Fueled by his obsession, Robert (Hugh Jackman) has his assistant Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) go to work for Alfred (Christian Bale) and spy on him to learn his secret to “The Transported Man”. The one thing Robert didn’t account for is Olivia betrays him and becomes Alfred’s assistant and the two fall in love. Olivia tips Alfred off on how Robert is performing his version and sabotages Roberts performance. When faced by Robert, to make up for the deception, Olivia offers Robert Alfred’s encrypted journal that has the answer to the trick but needs the answer so Robert kidnaps Alfred’s stage engineer Fallon. Robert follows the instructions to America where he meets men by the name of Alley (Andy Serkis) and Nikola Tesla (David Bowie). Robert believes that Tesla built a transportation device for Alfred but discovers it was all a lie made up by Alfred. Just when Tesla finishes construction of the teleportation device for Robert, Thomas Edison drives Tesla out of Colorado by setting fire to his home. While Robert and Alfred feud with each other, Alfred’s wife Sarah (Rebecca Hall) has grown tired of Alfred and the life he leads, decides to commit suicide.
Robert debuts his new version of The Transported Man with the help of Cutter (Michael Caine) back in London with great success. Alfred, sneaks in the back during one show and discovers that Robert is drowning after the second act of the trick. Not knowing what to do, Robert dies, and Cutter apprehends Alfred who gets sentenced to death. While in prison, Alfred gets visited by a man named Lord Caldow who promises to look after Alfred’s daughter Jess in exchange of all of Alfred’s secrets to his tricks, mainly The Transported Man. When Cutter realizes who Lord Caldow is he is outraged That he would go to the lengths he did to humiliate Alfred. While Robert is looking to dispose of the machine Tesla built, a stranger visits Robert who turns out to be Alfred and Alfred finally reveals his secret to The Transported Man.
Christopher Nolan seems to have this magical power to continuously fascinate audiences and critics with his stories. Every character is exceptionally complex with who they are as people. This film is just another shining example of Nolan’s genius the way he layers this story. I loved this film. Christian Bale and who Jackman are incredible in this because they understand their characters and what motivates them beyond what we as the audience sees on screen. Both Robert Angier and Alfred Borden are committed to destroying each other professionally, and personally while constantly one-upping each other. They are sociopathic narcissists who obsess over being the better magician. Neither can stand to watch the other succeed and its that rivalry that ultimately breaks both men physically, mentally, and spiritually. Another toxic trait Angier has is his God Complex, he’s a showman and (Not to be confused with his ole in The Greatest Showman) if the show isn’t right, it doesn’t work. Angier has to be smarter than everyone, has to have the better trick to prove he is the alpha magician.
I loved the rivalry between the two men, it makes the story incredibly compelling. We as the audience are almost forced to pick sides but, neither are extremely good nor extremely evil. They’re a mix of both and for the most part balance it well, at first. Alfred is more levelheaded and appears to have everything planned looked after with every last detail. The quote monologue Cutter gives to Alfred’s daughter at the beginning about every great trick having 3 parts foreshadows Alfred’s life. Coming from the working class and just scraping by to living in a mansion and being apart of high society being accused of murder and sentenced to death; all that equates to parts one and two of his life. The third part is coming back to be with his daughter.
Robert Angier is cockier and more arrogant and sloppier at times during their rivalry. He isn’t the mastermind Alfred is and uses his wealth to get ahead instead of his intellect. That is Robert’s ultimate downfall and what leads him to seek out Tesla. Robert is less focused than Alfred and acts on impulse rather than thinking things through logically like Alfred. Speaking of Tesla, I love the little tease we get at the rivalry between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. I almost wanted more out of that rivalry, but in the end found it was just enough as it could have shifted focus from Alfred and Robert’s rivalry.
To me, Michael Caine can do no wrong, he is incredible in every film he is in with Christopher Nolan and Nolan seems to get the absolute best out of him. He sort of plays similar roles in all Nolan’s films, being a pseudo caretaker and there is nothing wrong with that, he crushes every single role. I also really enjoyed Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson in their roles as well as the extraordinary Andy Serkis. Hall and Johansson play strong women who knew they were both just pawns in each of Alfred and Roberts games. The characters have the self-worth to realize the toxic masculinity isn’t healthy and decided to leave. Yes, Sarah became clinically depressed because of her husband and that is a sad reality people actually face and deal with every day. Her revenge on Alfred having this “split” personality, as she saw it, not knowing the truth, was to commit suicide in his shop. If I were to rate The Prestige I’d rate it a 4 out of 5. This is Nolan at his best and he’s just beginning.
One thing I loved in this film is the visual effects and makeup used to tell the story. The tesla machine alone is stunning and the make up used on Bale is perfect. Being in the 1800’s its mind blowing that this piece of technology could exist from one of the greatest inventors to ever live.
So, tell me guys, have you seen The Prestige and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
The Prestige I written and directed by Christopher Nolan is Rated PG-13 and has an 75% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Prestige was released on October 20th, 2006 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Prestige can be bought online by retailers including Vudu and Itunes.