I’d planned to look back at “Inception,” but finding that review is proving to be a super pain. Anyway, here’s another in a continuing line of excellent films by “The Dark Knight Rises” Director Christopher Nolan starring some of his frequent collaborators — Christian Bale and Michael Caine — and an actor I’d love to see him reunite with in the future in Hugh Jackman.
It’s no illusion. ‘‘The Prestige” is the best film of 2006 and represents storytelling at its finest.
It’s amazingly compelling watching two actors — in this case, Christian Bale (‘‘Rescue Dawn”) and Hugh Jackman (‘‘X-Men: The Last Stand”) — square off and their characters are a natural fit for them. [2012 FF: Jackman, the Broadway performer/Hollywood star just seems to exude confidence and charisma, while Bale seems to take his craft very seriously and is committed to putting everything into each role]
Aspiring magicians Robert Angier (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale) are slowly working their way up the ranks of their trade in hopes of one day becoming the finest of their generation. Their mentor Cutter (Michael Caine, ‘‘Batman Begins”) is a practical man who doesn’t want his charges to take unnecessary risks, a mindset that irks the more rebellious Borden. An act goes terribly wrong costing Angier’s wife her life. Angier blames Borden’s limit-pushing attitude for the tragedy, causing an irreparable rift between the former friendly rivals. Angier is determined to have revenge whether by killing Borden or simply settling for ending his career.
Nolan and his co-writing his brother, Jonathan, don’t force you to root for either. Instead, you’re given enough to care about both without having to view one as the “good guy” and the other “the bad guy.”
Forced to choose sides, Cutter aligns himself with Angier, the better showman and seemingly more stable of his charges. Borden meanwhile, is rarely without his mysterious companion/bodyguard Fallon and continues to push the limits to being the better man… or at least magician.
Borden unveils a new trick that astonishes audiences and makes Angier obsessed with outdoing his rival no matter the cost.
Director Christopher Nolan reunites with two of his principal actors from his critically acclaimed ‘‘Batman Begins,” Bale and Caine. You can see the amount of trust they have in him from their commanding performances. Jackman proves his film career has more life to it than being a spandex clad superhero in the X-Men franchise. [2012 FF: Thank goodness. I'll continue acting like there was never a third "X-Men" movie or a "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" so I only have pleasant thoughts of Jackman's comic films.]
From her prominence in the advertisements, you’d expect Scarlett Johansson’s (‘‘Marvel’s The Avengers”) role as Angier’s assistant Olivia to have more substance to it. But then again, the film is really about Rupert and Alfred’s rivalry and Olivia is just another pawn trapped in the middle. [2012 FF: Batman, Wolverine and the Black Widow all in one movie = Comic geek heaven!]
Nolan, who co-wrote the film with his brother Jonathan, is such a complete director. Whether shooting a quiet scene with Borden devising his next trick or Angier performing before a packed stage, Nolan adeptly gives each moment its spotlight. [2012 FF: There's no spastic editing or overbearing soundtrack. Nolan stages the film like a grand performance no matter the setting.]
There is a bit of a twist to the film but it’s not so obnoxious that you’ll feel cheated when it’s revealed. In fact, there is some satisfaction in correctly guessing the trick, which makes sense if you simply pay close attention to the proceedings. It’s exactly like Cutter explains in the film’s opening monologue — the audiences could see the trick if they wanted to, but they want to be fooled and taken into the experience.
[2012 FF: Fortunately this isn't a one-viewing kind of movie where once you've seen the twist it's not as good. Bale and Jackman suck you in with their performances and Nolan keeps you amazed like a true magician and the final act delivers the kind of payoff that you wish you were smart enough to have seen coming. If you're a big Nolan fan thanks to the Batman trilogy, this is my second favorite non-Batman film of his and definitely worth checking out.]
2012 Film Flashback Rating: 9.5 out of 10