Secrets. Lies. Revenge. Obsession. “The Prestige” is full of each presenting a suspenseful story of two magicians who begin as friends and end in an obsessive and vengeful rivalry.
Directed by Christopher Nolan (“Memento,” “Batman Begins”), the movie is comprised of an amazing cast. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale take the lead roles of Rupert Angier and Alfred Borden, two rival magicians completely obsessed with outdoing one another. They exceed in their roles, really becoming their characters in the film. Michael Caine is wonderful in his supporting role as Cutter, the superior designer of illusions of his time. Scarlett Johansson plays Olivia Wenscombe, a magician’s assistant who falls in love with both Angier and Borden. Rebecca Hall is Sarah, Borden’s wife, caught in the middle of his love for magic and his love for her. Piper Perabo is Julia, a magician’s assistant and Angier’s wife. David Bowie also fills a supporting role as Nikola Tesla, a scientist who both of the magicians need to build them machines.
The movie opens with Cutter (Caine) explaining the three parts to a magic trick. Fist there is the pledge in which the audience is introduced to the magical object. Second is the turn in which the object vanishes or is destroyed. Third is the final act and title of the movie, the prestige in which the object must be brought back in its original form. Cutter explains that the audience isn’t merely impressed by something disappearing, “you have to bring it back.”
Suddenly we’re taken to a courtroom where Borden (Bale) has been tried, convicted and sentenced to death after he is accused of being involved in Angier’s (Jackman) death. He is taken to prison where we hear a retelling of his and Angier’s life while he is reading Angier’s diary.
Now we flashback to a time where Angier and Borden are friends, both assistants to another magician. The friendship becomes a rivalry when a magic trick goes wrong because of an action by Borden and Julia, (Perabo) Angier’s wife, is killed. Through revenge and inflicting physical harm on one another, Angier and Borden become obsessed with becoming a better magician than the other. At one point in the film Angier says, “He stole my life, I will still his trick.” It becomes his sole purpose in life.
Throughout the movie the audience is taken through all three of the time periods repeatedly, each advancing, revealing more of the story. However, the three-part timeline contains rough transitions, and we find ourselves confused at times, trying to figure out whether we are in past or present.
The story seems too drawn out at times. Many audience members figure out the “trick” halfway through the movie. For those who only half-guess what is going on or don’t get it at all, one of the characters gives a play-by-play of the previous events, filling anyone still confused in. The movie is entertaining but I found myself tapping my foot, wondering when all of the answers would be revealed. I was sitting on the edge of my seat again towards the end of the movie, only to be slightly disappointed with the final act or the prestige if you will.
Don’t get me wrong, “The Prestige” is a great movie. It is well performed, well directed and full of suspense. However, I was hoping for more of a “big surprise” at the end. The actors do a wonderful job portraying their characters. Loyalties continually change throughout the movie. We wonder who we should love and who we should hate, who we should trust and who we should be careful of. But as it is said in the movie, they are magicians. Their lives are full of secrets.