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The game for the young
Oct 22, 2006
Before Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) travels to Colorado to find
scientist Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), Cutter (Michael Caine), magician
mentor, tells Angier, "Obsession is the game of young men…" In Director
and Writer Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" obsession spirals into
deadly rivalry. The Prestige refers to the Third Act of a magic trick.
In Act One: The Pledge shows the ordinary. In Act Two: The Turn, the
ordinary becomes extraordinary. In Act Three: The Prestige, the twist
occurs and we see something shocking. Writers Christopher and Jonathan
Nolan's "The Prestige", based on Christopher Priest's novel, embodies
these three acts. The third act of "The Prestige" is a shocking
surprise. While watching "The Prestige" I guessed half of the twist,
but not everything, and was completely mesmerized by the end. "The
Prestige" starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale is an engrossing
dark tale of revenge that is one of the year's best.
I had read that Priest's novel had an innovative narrative style where
the story is retold by the rival magicians Angier and Borden, wherein
the truth is revealed. Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan unveil a
captivating yarn through exchanged diaries—see the movie. We are clued
in from the on set, when Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) instructs us,
"Watch closely…" In the beginning Angier (Jackman) and Borden (Bale)
are young magicians under the tutelage of Cutter (Caine). Angier's
beautiful wife Julia (Piper Perabo) is a magician's assistant. However,
in a magic trick turned fatal, Angier and Borden transform into enemies
obsessed with revenge. Their obsession escalates into apparent murder.
"The Prestige" perfectly casts with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale.
Jackman and Bale are among the screen's most powerful actors. It is
interesting and not coincidence that Jackman and Bale have achieved
acclaims playing superheroes: Jackman as Wolverine in the "X-Men"
movies; Bale as Batman in "Batman Begins". However, there are no heroes
in "The Prestige". Director Nolan brilliantly leverages their
contrasting styles and intensity. Tony Winner Jackman plays the
brilliant showman Angier, who is talented, but smart enough to sense
that Borden may be the more gifted magician. His hatred for Borden is
boundless, even dismissing his assistant and lover Olivia (very good
Scarlett Johansson) to discover Borden's secrets. Borden (Bale) is the
brooding pure student of magic—he has the eye. Borden marries Sarah
(Rebecca Hall), and they eventually have a daughter Jess (cute
Sammantha Mahurin). However, good woman Sarah suffers in the
relationship of secrets. Borden becomes a star with his "Transported
Man" trick. The jealous Angier believes that Borden is performing true
magic. After several twists and turns, Angier is convinced that his own
quest for 'true magic' lies with Nikola Tesla (Bowie), the Father of
Magnetism. The true magic he seeks is apparently, science.
Christopher Nolan ("Memento", "Batman Begins") infuses a sense of
wonder and tragedy in his dark tale. Ultimately, his "The Prestige" is
about the cost of losing one's soul on the path of vengeance and fame.
Hugh Jackman is simply powerful. As Angier he is a man whose life takes
a dark turn, and becomes obsessed discarding almost all of his
humanity. Jackman's intensity and vulnerability make Angier's quest
sympathetic, but never enrolling. Jackman is masterful and charismatic
in this balancing act. He has a commanding presence and voice. His
performance is Oscar worthy. Equally powerful is Christian Bale as the
conversely internalized Borden. His Borden is the consummate magician,
always creating. Bale's intense understated performance hints at the
anger and drive just below the surface. Jackman and Bale have an
amazing screen partnership that is a paradox of styles. The scenes
where both discover that they have been betrayed are stunning. Michael
Caine is awesome as usual. Here he wonderfully floats between the two
leads. His final alliance is a complete surprise. David Bowie is
absolutely great as Nikola Tesla, a completely original character.
Nolan's "The Prestige" is an unsettling tale of revenge and deadly
rivalry. Nolan navigates many twists and turns arriving upon an
electrifying surprise in this story of all consuming obsession. Jackman
and Bale each give their best performance in Nolan's parable of
forfeited souls. "The Prestige" is one of the year's best movies.
April 14, 2021