The film is about the rivalry between two famous magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Chrisitan Bale) which happens during the late nineteenth century. They develop the enmity during the process of working under another magician early in their career. One of the tricks fails and the result is the death of Angier’s wife. Angier along with the viewers doubt that Borden is the cause of it. Both take different routes after that but starts sabotaging each other every now and then. As time flies by, vengeance becomes an obsession for both of them to know each other’s secrets behind their tricks. The rest of the film tells how their lives turn out due to this dangerous obsession.
Nolan is a master storyteller juggling effortlessly with a spectacular screenplay and an amazing editing. Lee Smith who laid out the terrific entertainer “Batman Begins” joins hands with Nolan again for this movie. Their charm works with an interestingly knitted film. The movie shifts in between the first note narration of both the magicians reading the diary of each others. The film may seem scrambled with the frame change from one time zone to other, but the feeding structure never lets the viewer get confused in those. Magic, is to show what needs to be shown and when it needs to be shown and editing does the same. This skill of editing is the art of feeding the right essence of the deviation to cultivate necessary doubts and finally clear it off with the master act.
This film while viewed as a commercial entertainer reeks out the art work and the dedication spent on picturizing the narration of the film. The movie constantly alarms the viewer to “watch closely” and try to find out the truth, if there is one. The art of performing a trick is to convince the audience what they are seeing is not true yet make it astonishingly believable. The audience knows that this is “magic” and it is not real. As the film says, “they want to be fooled”. But do the viewers of the movie feel the same? From the very first screen shot, the audience expects a stumping suspense. So Nolan attempts something different. He took the concept of those acts of magic and fits it in the screen. The viewers may see a very normal suspense movie, but it is not which is the first act “The Pledge”. The audience investigates as much as possible sub consciously to eliminate the deceiving factor. The movie circles around these two magicians and the start of the movie flips out the “The Turn” act when Angier dies. The third act, “The Prestige” is where all the twists and turns happen.
Christian Bale is a talented actor. He did it in “American Psycho”, “The Machinist” and “Batman Begins”. As the confident and dedicated magician, he takes the character which always looms with secret eyes and devious smiles. He makes the audience never trust that character. Hugh Jackman on the other side as Angier is the surprise package for me. He comes out of the “X-Men” cartoonish character into the real world. Angier is the character the viewer starts sympathizing initially. But in a lethargic manner he injects the cunningness of the character. The transformation from a sympathizing husband to an obsessive magician who extends his wrongful mind to the darkest nature of a human is classic. This is the Hugh Jackman, everyone would like to see in the future. Michael Caine who had a similar role of a wise old man as Alfred in “Batman Begins” comes up with the right toned business minded pragmatic mentor, Mr. Cutter. He knows the darkness of the trade and hence remains backstage. The movie does not show the inner character of him, but in depth the war of doing a trick and the pain of causing it, is evident in his small talks. Scarlett Johansson acts as the bait for both the magicians. Along with them, the viewers doubt her as well. Even when there is a genuine concern or truthfulness in the character, everyone doubts it. She enacts the role of her nicely as well.
Christopher Nolan who impressed the cinematic world with the stunning execution of “Memento” has sweetly made one more presence after “Batman Begins” with “The Prestige”. The audiences are extremely cautious and always looking for clues in suspense movies now a day. Movies like “The Usual Suspects”, “The Sixth Sense” and “Fight Club” have made them wary of the unknown loose knots and encourage them to outwit the director. It’s a tight rope to walk on. “The Prestige” is not great for its ending. The ending is not the real magic; it is the narration of the story which makes it an extremely entertaining and artful movie. Watch “The Prestige” for its magical charm wherein the audiences are happy to be fooled.