It’s no illusion. The Prestige is the best film of 2006 and represents storytelling at its finest.
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 trick 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-writer partner — brother Jonathan Nolan — 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 while exhibiting drastic mood swings to his wife Sarah (a terrific Rebecca Hall, Iron Man 3)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 absolutely won’t disappoint you.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10