Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Based on the novel by Christopher Priest
So I might be a little biased because Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors, (“Memento” earned 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “The Dark Knight” earned 94 percent, “Inception” earned 86 percent, need I say more?) but “The Prestige” is an overlooked masterpiece that Nolan has crafted.
The movie is primarily about two magicians, each trying to outdo one another not just by their tricks but in life. Angier’s (Jackman) wife, a magician’s assistant, dies in an accident on stage at the hands of Angier’s colleague, Borden (Bale). Ever since the incident, the two part ways to go on and create their own stage presence as magicians while at the same time trying to harm the other’s reputation. The obsession to become the greatest magician takes hold over Angier and Borden and will not end until one is truly satisfied.
Nolan once again brings together an ensemble cast that works well- Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine are the glue that holds this movie together. Caine’s character, Cutter, is the one who worked with Angier and Borden, the one who engineered magic tricks for Angier and understood the kind of magic Borden was coming up with. Yet no matter how much he warned Angier to let go of his obsession to beat Borden, Angier wouldn’t listen and the movie ends with the bittersweet recognition that “obsession is a young man’s game”.
The true masterpiece Nolan puts together in this film is how much these magicians are willing to pay just to be the greatest. Each man is flawed and the film may make audiences lean toward favoring Angier after the death of his wife, but Angier’s hatred for Borden takes us back on our sympathies. Just like “Black Swan”‘s ending with Natalie Portman whispering “I was perfect”, Angier takes his obsession to a dangerous level. Borden’s true secret is revealed at the very end, after Angier has been driven mad. It also drives the audience mad with the wonder of it, and still leaves us asking the question, how can it be so?
The best part of watching this movie is Nolan has a way to make the audience part of these magician’s audience. We are also watching closely, waiting to catch the secret that makes the trick work, and also being captivated by the trick itself. And like most of Nolan’s films, he waits until the very end to give us the question to think about for the next few minutes, hours, however long you really want to wonder. It’s said in the beginning of the film. The answer is simple. Knowing the secret takes away the illusion, and Nolan makes us forget about reality in the hopes that maybe we will find real magic in this movie. In watching closely, we allow ourselves to forget. We allow ourselves to be fooled because we want to be.