a critiQal film review The Prestige (2006)

Plot: Angier (Jackman) and Borden (Bale) are rival magicians at the turn of the century. When Borden begins performing the ultimate trick, "The Transported Man", Angier will stop at nothing to discover how the trick is done.

581 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 54s)
  • ...a good performance piece that showcases the acting talents that Bale and Jackman bring to the screen.

Since I’ve been a big fan of Christian Bale since American Psycho, I always try to check out anything he appears in. While I haven’t seen everything he’s been in, he has yet to let me down in the roles I have seen him in since (Shaft (2000), Equilibrium (2002), Reign of Fire (2002), Batman Begins (2005), Harsh Times (2006)).

So when I saw a preview for his latest film, The Prestige, I knew I wanted to check it out. Pitting him against Wolverine, er, Hugh Jackman seemed an odd concept, especially as turn-of-the-century magicians, but I figured I’d check it out at some point anyway. But, would the odd premise and casting of The Prestige help make this the first movie Christian would disappoint me in, or would the sleight of hand prove to be worth every second?

Christian Bale has the rare ability to play a bad guy just as easily as he does a good guy. In The Prestige, the lines aren’t as clearly drawn, as both main characters have a bit of evil in them, so he is able to play both villain and hero in the same film – and he pulls it off with ease.

Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, is known for being a hero, so his dual-sided character in The Prestige seems a bit out of place for him at first. At first, the viewer believes he is the hero of the picture, so that works fine for him. But, as the film goes on, and the viewer sees that his character also has a bit of evil to him, the viewer is thrown off their balance. Thankfully, the film counts on this, and uses it.

The biggest surprise in The Prestige, however, is David Bowie, who’s portrayal of Nikolai Tesla steals the show in each scene he’s in – not something viewers would expect from this influential singer, whose most memorable movie role was as a bizarre villain in 1986’s trippy cheese-fest, Labyrinth (1986).

With a quick beginning, the viewer is thrust into this world of the past, and expects to be shocked and amazed by the spectacular tricks these magicians use. Instead, the viewer is thrown into an intense – yet at first rather subdued – professional rivalry that develops between these two. As the film progresses, and the professional rivalry becomes more and more personal, the viewer is witness to an intense obsession that grows for each of these men. As the obsession intensifies, they slowly begin to lose everything around them – including both of them pushing away the same girl, played quietly by Scarlett Johansson – and the viewer slowly becomes convinced that death seems to be the only option left to end this more and more bitter feud.

Then, just like a magic trick, the twists and turns start coming out of the woodwork in The Prestige. Just when the viewer is sure they know how the film is going to turn out, another twist shows up to throw them off. Christopher Nolan, best know for re-inventing Batman with Christian Bale, does a masterful job of providing clues to these twists and turns without being too blatantly obvious about it, leaving the viewer to applaud the showmanship of the final act.

Definitely worth watching, The Prestige is a good performance piece that showcases the acting talents that Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman can bring to the screen – but definitely not the action-packed event the previews lead viewers to expect.

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