After the success of rebooting the Batman franchise last year with Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan has teamed up with his two finest actors from that comic book adaptation – Christian Bale and Sir Michael Caine – alongside the talented Hugh Jackman and the beautiful Scarlett Johansson, with a fascinating story regarding two magicians whose intense rivalry leads them on a life-long battle for supremacy.
Similar to Nolan’s previous work with Memento, the narrative of The Prestige jumps across various points in the story, much like a magic act in itself.
The plot revolves around two central characters, Rupert Angier and Alfred Borden (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, respectively), who start a friendship that eventually turn into rivalry after Rupert’s wife is killed in a magic trick that went wrong. After that, the two start trying to discover each other’s secrets. It all changes when Alfred discovers the ultimate trick: the Transported Man, a magic act that will make Rupert lose his mind in order to decipher it.
With this thought-provoking story that requires actors with a great deal of emotive range, Nolan has assembled what could be described as a dream team. Both Bale and Jackman suit their respective roles perfectly, and pitting these two performers against each other was a stroke of casting genius. As usual, Sir Michael Caine provided a memorising screen presence as Cutter, the inventor who designed the tricks.
But probably the most surprising performance comes from David Bowie (yes really!) whose unforgettable turn as the Russian physicist Nikola Tesla absolutely shines.
The genre of The Prestige is quite tricky to categorise… It walks between a fine line with elements of mystery, drama, suspense and fantasy. In that, the story becomes a never-ending stream of wonder for the mind: one can never tell exactly where the story is going to lead next, becoming more and more as time goes on. This gives Christopher Nolan ample opportunity to play with the movie-going audience. And play he does. With narration by several characters, each adding their own viewpoint to the events, and with a direction that moves between time to mystify and distract, the end result is a climax that itself is a series of puzzles that each unravel beautifully.
In the end, The Prestige is a fantastic display of what can be accomplished when you bring together superior talent. Not only is this the best magic show you will see, but perhaps the best film of the year.