Movie Review: The Prestige

Based on the novel by Christopher Priest, ‘The Prestige’ is a magical piece of mystery and treachery. From the director of ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Memento’ Christopher Nolan, this is a tale of two rival magicians who try to outdo each other’s stage performances with grave consequences.

The story begins with a scene from the end of the movie which is essentially the climax. Set in the streets of London, Robert Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) work for Milton the magician, who has an illusion engineer Cutter played by Michael Caine. A lifelong battle ensues when Robert Angier’s wife and assistant accidently dies during a performance and Borden is blamed for it. They turn their separate ways and set out to gain fame and fortune. They compete with each other constantly and attempt to acquire each other’s tricks and secrets.

This movie captures tragic instances from Borden’s and Angier’s lives where they both lose precious things and retaliate with rage. They are hurdled with obstacles and continuously come in each other’s way. Angier travels to inventor Nikola Tesla and uses his machine to improve his act ‘The New Transported Man’, which is an answer to Borden’s hugely successful “The Transported Man’ act. But what Angier doesn’t realize is that Tesla’s creation is much more than it seems. The machine is actually a teleporter that creates duplicates of the object placed in it, which Angier uses for his final act. In the end, the secret is revealed.

The film is centered around the professional competition between two foes with unparalleled insight into the world of illusion and trickery. Each magician has his own positive quality, Borden with his technique and Angier with his charming showmanship. With the seeds of hatred planted deep, each individual is out to get his revenge and is obsessed to gain justice by any means in life. The protagonists resort to tactics of physical and psychological torture to gain information. Nolan has certainly outdone himself. He tells the story in a unique way, employing interesting techniques.

The opening dialogue in the movie by Michael Caine ‘Every great magic trick has a third act, the most difficult act, the prestige’ allures us and sums up the basis of the movie. In the film, the ‘prestige’ is supposed to be the finale where the subject is successfully restored. It is part of a three step magical trick: the Pledge or the set up, the Turn or the ruse, and the Prestige. The magicians lure audiences with their showmanship and talent. ‘The Transported man’ and the electrifying current act are various appearing deceptions utilised.
This film succeeds in keeping you on your toes and keeps you guessing and solving the ever growing puzzle. It takes you through a series of twists and turns before inevitably revealing the prestige. It provokes the viewer into believing that a trick is real magic. The film’s greater driving principle is defined by the amount of conspiracy and schemes followed by the performers. The supernatural plot is collaborated by an emotional appeal recognised by the illusionists not only towards their family, but also their craft.

The actors have been appropriately selected and personify the characters justly. Michael Caine brings his charm and crisp wit to the scenes and plays out the role of Cutter, the senior magician for whom Borden and Angier were working, impressively. Here he is reappearing alongside his Dark Knight co star Christian Bale. The female roles are played by Scarlet Johansson and Piper Perabo. Johansson plays Angier’s assistant plotting against Borden and helps discover his secret while Perabo plays Angier’s wife. Here, the characters work towards their goals, facing adversity along the way.

This film showcases exquisite Victorian costumes and detailed set designs with dramatic lighting effects. Elements utilised inculcate a thorough English setting with a dark backdrop. It infuses brilliant cinematography and sound effects, the dialogues and accent capturing the era perfectly. The Prestige is truly one of the most engaging and curious contemporary films with a thrill ride all the way. It is a masterpiece not to be missed!

Shirin Khara

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