Having turned into a fan of Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan after the hugely successful and intriguing Batman Begins, I was rather eager to sink into the depths of The Prestige. A story of rivalry, passion and deception, I was not disappointed by the latest offering from the Bale-Nolan partnership.
Beware of spoilers after the jump.
The plot of the movie, adapted from a novel of the same name by Christopher Priest, is simply based on the rivalry shared by two aspiring young magicians, showy Robert Angiers (Hugh Jackman) and creative Alfred Borden (Bale) who starts out as friends. Their relationship takes a turn for the worse after Angiers blames Borden for the horrific death of his wife during a magic trick gone wrong. From that point on, it becomes a malicious and sometimes dangerous game of outwitting and outplaying.
Right from the start, we nosedive into the engaging story as we see a struggling Angiers fall into a tank full of water and seemingly drowns to death in front of a shocked Borden. We think this is the ending, we anticipate it. We let our guard down, believing we already know what happens, and relax into the movie.
But we are wrong.
The unique thing about Nolan’s storytelling is in his intriguing layering and complex flashbacks. His characters are flesh and blood, with fierce passions and emotions running through their veins. The director practically demands all of your concentration, with confusion being the penalty for failing to surrender into the movie.
He weaves in the present and the past with much liberty. One moment Angiers is reading the stolen diary of Borden, the next moment we are watching Borden doing exactly what Angiers is reading. And before you know it, the scene crosses over to Borden reading Angiers’ diary as he waits to be sentenced for his alleged crime of murdering Angiers. It sounds complicated but Nolan is not careless with his timeline.
As we follow the two magicians through their marriages, travels, thought processes, mistakes and reflections, we start to wonder about their obsession to magic. It consumes them all, unravels their lives, drives away the people closest to them and leads them to do the unthinkable.
And when the shocking denouement is unveiled, we can only sit back, listen to Thom Yorke’s vocals play over the sound system, watch the credits roll and ponder about the sheer beauty and marvel of this movie.
While Jackman more than holds his own against Bale and the ever regal Michael Caine, he is simply no match for the intensity of the two British thespians. Bale is through and through a method actor and every flash of emotion can be seen in his eyes and the pursing of his lips. As he emerges from the shadows at the end of the movie, the look on his face is seemingly made of cold steel.
Caine, as the engineer behind many of Angiers’ tricks and illusions, holds the movie down firmly with his gravitas. Scarlett Johansson looks and pouts prettily in the movie but it is Rebecca Hall, as Borden’s longsuffering wife Sarah, who steals the show from the blonde bombshell.
All in all, The Prestige is simply one of the best movies I have ever watched. Run to the movie theatres now!