The Prestige--posted by Tony Garcia on 11/01/2006
I saw The Prestige this past weekend and have been meaning to write my brief reaction. Thank you to Vodka-Yogurt for inspiring me.
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. Now if you're looking for the secret... you won't find it, that's why there's a third act called, "The Prestige"; this is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you've never seen before.What is "the Prestige" in this film? THAT is what you must answer. To me, the movie's "prestige" is underdelivered. And that is the only real downfall.
This was a well acted, well directed and well produced movie. It is well cast and it is almost well written. More on that in a moment.
First of all this seems to be a Batman Begins reunion. And since that movie was a very well done movie I have no complaints about that. Two of the main actors (Christian Bale and Michael Caine) appear in both movies. And when they say in The Presige's trailers, "from the people who brought you Batman Begins" they were not kidding. Christopher Nolan wrote, directed and produced both films (as well as the coming Batman sequel, The Dark Knight). Emma Thomas is also a producer for all three movies. Wally Pfister is cinematographer, Lee Smith the film editor, John Papsidera the casting, and Nathan Crowley the production designer for Batman & the Prestige.
Casting...great job. From the Judge (Daniel Davis, who was Prof. Moriarty in Star Trek: TNG) to David Bowie as Nikola Tesla to Tesla's assistant, Alley, played by Andy Serkis (best known for his role as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) all of the minor roles were given strong performances.
The supporting roles were also fabulous. Scarlett Johansson (previously in Lost In Translation), Rebecca Hall and Caine turned in stellar performances that helped to sell every aspect of this movie.
Of the two leads, Hugh Jackman and Bale, Bale was much stronger. His strongest aspects of his performance may be lost on most people...pulling of subtle differences that account for some important details in the plot. Jackman was not bad, but of the entire cast Jackman was the least convincing. He was not bad...just he was the unfortunate on to be last on the list of the cast from best to worst.
Some of my most favorite movies are the ones where you are left leaving the theatre thinking. Putting some of the pieces together, solving unanswered questions or simply figuring out how you were duped for so long...those, in my view, make movies better.
The story was intriguing. Two magicians who start as co-workers and through a tragedy become competitors. Each event in their lives cause them to try to outdo each other. How far are they willing to go in order to get to the next level? Are they willing to "get their hands dirty" and how dirty? Are they willing to be totally immersed in their art...and how immersed?
The theme was compelling as well. Obsession can destroy the obsessed.
Why couldn't he remember which knot he tied? How come he only meant "I love you" on some days? Why did he use a different name with his assistant?
The only complaint I have with the movie, and it is a big one to me, is how late the movie asks the audience to suspend aspects of reality. At the moment we see all of the top hats and cats my wife & I knew what was going on and how it fit in with the story...essentially we knew the ending. I was disappointed in the sudden demand of the suspension of reality by the audience, to me, is as bad as a deus ex machina.
While that was a huge downer for me there were many other very cool things that took a while to sink in. Why couldn't Alfred remember which knot he tied? How come Alfred only meant "I love you" to Sarah on some days? Why did Alfred use a different name while he was with Olivia? So many things like this.
Those minor or subtle things that leave you putting them together after you leave the theatre are great.
In fact, while looking for a certain quote I was reminded of this exchange in the movie:
Cutter: Remember when I told you about the drowning sailor?At the time it seemed HORRIBLY out of place. Reading again a few minutes ago it just hit me that another subtle link was just connected. Another "orphan" moment, one that seems to have no significance, actually has a huge purpose.
Rupert Angier: Yes, he said it was like going home.
Cutter: I lied. He said it was agony.
So many good things and only one problem. The underdelivered prestige of the film...and why was it underdelivered? Because of the attempt to jump to science fiction to resolve the plot.
Forced to give a grade, I would give it a B-...ignoring the belated suspension of reality and resulting disappointment it would have been an A.