November 4, 2006

The Prestige

Sometimes movies you have been anticipating for ages, end up letting you down. In other cases, a movie with no advance buzz ends up as one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. Who would have imagined that I'd find a movie about rival magicians so riveting? Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale (yes, it's Wolverine versus Batman!) play Angier and Borden, who begin as friends and become bitter adversaries after a dangerous trick goes fatally wrong. They descend into a bitter spiral of revenge- it's not enough that they succeed- the other must fail, with pain and disgrace. I don't think I would be satisfied if the movie did not have a fantastical, supernatural element to it. The "real magic" performed in the movie is not revealed until the end, and it is a spine-chiller. I'm still turning it over in my mind two days later.prestige
Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) uses flashbacks - within - flashbacks to tell the story like a magic trick, which can get a little dense: at one point, Borden is reading Angier's diary, where Angier writes (in a flashback) about reading Borden's diary, where Borden reminisces (in a flashback) about his own past. Just like a magic trick, The Prestige rewards close viewing. In fact, the first words spoken are "Are you paying attention?" The movie does not have a "twist" ending like The Usual Suspects, where no reasonable viewer could figure out that Verbal Kint was Keyser Soze. The Prestige does require your full attention to keep up, and sharp minds will start to unravel the mystery by the mid-way point. (AMC Burlington)
I was never a fan of magic shows or magic tricks growing up- I always felt like the audience was being played for fools. I can appreciate a clever piece of misdirection, and admire deft sligh-of-hand, but a guy in a tux onstage playing with props never impressed me. I once went to a magic show at the Cabot Theater in Beverly, where the magician levitated an assistant into the air under a cloth- except I spotted the assistant roll out of sight as the cloth "covered" her.