Do not give away the twist. Do not ask about the twist. Even better yet, is there a twist?
I read somewhere that it was impossible for a critic to write a review for The Prestige and not give away the twists and turns. Let me give it a shot. I think a critic’s intentions are never to give away the twists of films, I think it is simply a matter of pride. Critics don’t want to seem as if they are the only person in the room that didn’t guess the ending. After all, they see thousands of movies, they should be able to figure out the ending before the title comes on screen… Right? Everything’s competition, what would the other critics think of them if they didn’t guess it right away? Pride, it’s a bitch.
Oddly enough, this little scenario can just as easily be used to describe The Prestige, a film centered on pride, egos and obsession. A film where one man cannot deal with the fact that he has been bested, he must know the secret, or at the very least give off the illusion that he has a leg up.
Robert Angier (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale) are two up-and-coming magicians. Forced to take positions as magician’s assistants they form a friendship,they admire each other and have love for their craft. Soon this “love” turns into something evil when a trick goes horribly awry. A rift between the two swells into bitter competition as they set off to best the other all while attempting to find happiness in their personal lives.
Jackman as Angier takes to the stage with a certain level of flair and charisma, he is a natural entertainer. Unfortunately he is missing one thing… the secret to Borden’s trick, a trick even he describes as, “The best trick [ha has] ever seen.” However Borden is no better off due to his lack of ability to woo the crowd. His trick is exceptional but he is lacking that David Copperfield style that would sell it and make it a winner, that certain something that would give him a commanding position in people’s minds even if he already has a commanding position over Angier. Of course Angier realizes this and what could have been healthy competition becomes an unhealthy obsession built on jealousy, hate and revenge. Angier is determined to learn Borden’s secret at any cost and even travels half-way around the world to sell his soul and his integrity for what he believed he wanted as he becomes something more than he could have ever imagined.
Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman turn in fantastic performances here, but it is Bale who truly shines. Bale has always shown talent, but it has been in these last few years that it is finally being recognized. There is something about Bale that is mysterious, he seems to always know more than everyone else on screen, and that gives him a certain level of power over the audience. For me it was easy to pick sides in this battle, but I have already heard contradictory viewpoints to that effect. Nevertheless, as the bitter rivalry grows you will find yourself picking sides and the sooner you do the more rewarding the outcome will be. Also impressive in this flick is David Bowie as Nikola Tesla, a character based on a real inventor that lived throughout the late 1800s and died in 1943. Bowie gives an impressive performance, and what is most impressive about it is that you nay not even know it is Bowie if you aren’t told in advance. Hell, I thought it was Tom Skerritt the first time I saw the trailer.
Amidst all this greatness I am spouting there are a few downsides to this flick. As intriguing and compelling as the story may be it does tend to drag. It is a tricky story to tell and timing is imperative, and while I can’t pinpoint any one scene specifically that should have been cut I do think a few snips could have been made here and there to pick up the pace. My other complaint has to do with the storytelling technique itself. By this I am referring to how we see how several of the tricks are done which removes a lot of the mystery, even if it wasn’t the mystery at the core of the film. Borden says, “Secrets are my life,” and this is something we all know about magicians. To get a magician to tell his secret would seemingly be impossible, it is their livelihood, and while on screen the secret may be revealed to only one person an entire audience of moviegoers is also in on the hidden gem. However, these secrets must be told in order to move the story along, it is a no win situation, which makes it somewhat of a bullshit complaint. Yet, it is a complaint nonetheless.
However, despite any complaints the intrigue remains. If the trailer has grabbed your attention than The Prestige has you, and in more ways than you know. If you think you have it figured out you most likely haven’t. With a running time of two hours and 15 minutes you will most likely begin to notice the clock, but once the final secret is revealed I think you will be hard pressed not to want to see the movie again even though you know all the secrets already.