Friday, September 28, 2007

The Prestige

The Prestige; Fantasy/ Drama, USA, 2006; D: Christopher Nolan, S: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, David Bowie, Samantha Mahurin

England, late 19th Century. Magician Angier was drowned in a water tank during his show, and his rival Borden is charged as the perpetrator. Angier's older assistant Cutter remembers their story: a long time ago, all thee were working together, but during a magic act Borden accidentally tied up a too hard knot around Julia, Angier's wife, who drowned while performing a escape from a water tank. From there on, Angier swore rivalry: he shoot Borden's two fingers off, while he ruined his act by killing a pigeon. When Borden presented a revolutionary trick, where he appears and reappears in a second from one door to another, Angier gets obsessed by finding out his secret and hires Nikola Tesla to construct a machine that can teleport him even further than Borden. Back in present, Borden is found guilty and hanged, but it turns out Angier is still alive because he made a clone each time he teleported and drowned him. But Borden has a twin brother who kills Angier and gets back his daughter.

Out of the mass of overstuffed sterile films for MySpace generation, Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" turned out surprisingly quite decent. Actually, the film is so heavy and so complicated that you can literally miss one of the important clues in the story if you just blink for a second. The dark story revolving around a bitter rivalry between two magicians, Angier and Borden, is quite morbid and macabre at moments, especially when they use dirty tricks to sabotage each others magic act - in one scene, a masked Angier shoots off Borden's two fingers during his performance, while the next time Borden presses a cage with a pigeon too hard, breaking Angiers illusion of disappearance by killing the bird - mirroring the mean spirited competition that gets imposed during show business. Michael Caine is great as the assistant Cutter, Scarlett Johansson is cute as Olivia, while the oddest casting choice was having David Bowie play - not more, not less - but the legendary inventor Nikola Tesla (!) who in one scene says: "Society can only take one change at a time", the ice cold directing is precise and stylish, but the movie is non the less not for everyone's taste due to artificial feel and contrived dramaturgy. At moments, their rivalry is truly a bit too much to handle. Still, except for a complicated structure, the main highlight here is the ending: just like the magicians, the story also has a few tricks during the finale that will puzzle some viewers. One twist is slightly predictable, but the second one really comes as a surprise. Actually, when observing closely the last scene, one could even say there are two and a half plot surprises at the ending. Not since "Wild Things" were there so many plot twists in a film, and even though "The Prestige" isn't exactly a prestigious film, it still has it's merits.


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