Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Prestige (2006)

Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman): I never thought I'd find an answer at the bottom of a pint glass.
Cutter (Michael Caine): Hasn't stopped you looking, has it?

Sarah Borden (Rebecca Hall): Alfred I can't live like this!
Alfred Borden Christian Bale): Well, what do you want from me?
Sarah: I want... I want you to be honest with me. No tricks, no lies, no secrets.
Sarah: Do you... do you love me?
Alfred Borden: Not today. No.

"You always were the better magician. We both know that. Whatever your secret was, you have to agree, mine is better."
- Robert Angier (to AlfredBorden)

Alfred Borden: Everything's going to be alright, because I love you very much.
Sarah Borden: Say it again.
Alfred Borden: I love you.
Sarah Borden: Not today.
Alfred Borden: What do you mean?
Sarah Borden: Well some days it's not true. Maybe today you're more in love with magic. I like being able to tell the difference, it makes the days it is true mean something.

Alfred Borden: I love you.
Sarah Borden: You mean it today.
Alfred Borden: Of course.
Sarah Borden: It just makes it so much harder when you don't.

Hanging Officer: Do you have anything to say?
Alfred Borden: Abracadabra.

At a glance: This period piece about feuding magicians is so much more than the sum of its parts. It has science, magic, surprises, and mysteries to be solved by those willing to watch closely. Director Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins) has once again created a captivatingly layered story.

In the 19th century, two friendly magicians (Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman; and Alfred Border, played by Christian Bale) become enemies when Borden may or may not have accidentally killed Angier’s wife by tieing her hands incorrectly while she was part of an underwater magic trick. Angier becomes obsessed at both besting Borden as a magician, and destroying his personal life. Like two pig-headed countries, the battle slowly escalates, with neither willing to put an end to hostilities, and both insisting on striking back in retaliation. The story is told in real time, and is narrated by Borden and Angier reading each other’s stolen diaries. There are movements back and foreward in time to tell the story most effectively. There is imagery, such as when (SPOILERS) Sarah Borden hangs herself amid the birds hanging in cages. Along the way, we get to follow a rich plot with a few surprises. We learn a few behind the scenes tricks of the magician’s trade. The story is captivating, but does require that the viewer suspend their disbelief a bit. It worked for me, having just recently read about the crazed genius of Nikola Tesla. The real-life Tesla/Edison rivalry is a fascinating obsessive story in itself. It is only touched upon here, but someone will film it someday. Good supporting work by Michael Caine – again, and some quirky casting with David Bowie as Tesla. One scene that for some reason didn’t work for me as well as I thought it would was the final scene between Borden and Angier (especially Jackman’s lines and delivery). Rating: 3.5 of 4

"An example of old-fashioned storytelling, the kind of magical movie that could have been made fifty years ago and, consequently, will still be watched fifty years from now."
- Brian Tallerico (UGO)

"It's quite a movie -- atmospheric, obsessive, almost satanic."
- Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times)

"Nolan balances Hollywood and indie sensibilities pulling off a film that is smart, complicated and carries a big look."
- Ryan Cracknell (Calgary Movies)

"Odd, but brilliantly so. It's a small film that feels big, a period drama that looks modern, defying comparison to anything but Nolan himself."
- Dan Jolin (Empire Magazine)

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