Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: THE PRESTIGE's Brilliance is No Trick

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 225 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Prestige (2006)
Running time: 128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence and disturbing images
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
WRITERS: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan (based upon the novel by Christopher Priest)
PRODUCERS: Emma Thomas, Aaron Ryder, and Christopher Nolan
EDITOR: Lee Smith A.C.E.
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/THRILLER with elements of sci-fi and fantasy

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, and Andy Serkis

Director Christopher Nolan (Memento) reunites with two of the stars of his acclaimed hit film, Batman Begins – Christian Bale and Michael Caine – in The Prestige. Based upon the acclaimed novel of the same title by highly respected science fiction author, Christopher Priest, the film (like the book) blends sci-fi and history in telling the tale of magic and of an out-of-control rivalry.

In turn-of-the-century London, magicians are celebrities of the highest order, and in this age in which their craft can turn them into idols, two young magicians and colleagues are each ready to carve his path to fame and vast fortune. A tragic accident, however, turns them into enemies-for-life – bitter rivals intent on outdoing and upending each other. They’re either causing grave physical injury to one another or ruining each other’s act. The flashy showman and American, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) calls himself the “The Great Danton,” and he is obsessed with discovering the secrets of the edgy purist, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), a.k.a. “The Professor,” who is a genius at inventing new stage tricks, but who lacks Angier’s showmanship. Borden is technically the better magician, and Angier lives to see the shock on his audiences’ faces. Their competition and rivalry grow more ferocious, almost with each trick and every show.

They drag everyone around them into their private war, including Cutter (Michael Caine), Angier’s “ingeneur” (a technician who actually creates magic tricks) and Olivia Wenscombe (Scarlett Johannson), Angier’s stage assistant, and Sarah (Rebecca Hall), Borden’s wife. Angier eventually turns to the fantastic new power of electricity and the brilliance of eccentric scientist, Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), in his bid to outdo Borden. But will the secret of “the prestige” take them too far into the darkest reaches of what is possible?

The Prestige is simply a riveting thriller built within a compelling drama, and the drama itself evolves from mesmeric characters. The Prestige is less like the literal-minded Batman Begins, and more like Nolan’s breakthrough flick, Memento – a time-shifting tale. The story (which Nolan co-wrote with his brother, Jonathan) hops back forth through the past, present, and future like Pulp Fiction, but demands your attention like The Sixth Sense. Grown up sensibilities and adult viewers demand engaging dramatic thrillers, and Christopher Nolan proves that he can deliver it, seemingly with stunning ease. The film isn’t without fault, as it is too dry in some segments and contrived in others. The end stumbles just a tad and overstates the obvious, but its flaws make actually make The Prestige worthy of contemplation long after the screen has faded to black.

Nolan’s cast gives him its all. Hugh Jackman completely sells the desperate and shamefully vain Robert Angier, while the always intense Christian Bale embodies Alfred Borden’s single-minded pursuit of craft and purity. Caine gives his edgiest performance since The Quiet American as Cutter. David Bowie is simply… delicious as the real-life Tesla, and Andy Serkis is a sweet curveball as the dodgy Alley.

Nolan also reunited key members of his technical crew from Batman Begins for The Prestige, and they play key roles (with brilliance) in creating an environment that is totally in synch with the film’s plot and setting. They make sure the visuals are tight, so that when the engaged viewer watches The Prestige with a careful eye, he will be delighted by surprising pledges, delightful turns, and one mind-numbing prestige.

8 of 10

Friday, November 03, 2006

2007 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Art Direction” (Nathan Crowley-art director and Julie Ochipinti-set decorator) and “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Wally Pfister)


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