Monday, December 11, 2006

The Prestige

"Are you watching closely?" says the magician showing off a trick to a little girl at the beginning of the movie. And so does Chris Nolan. For if you are not, you'd probably miss quite a few of the many sleights of hand Nolan performs in the movie. Shot in variable time (Nolan, please get over Memento, its even been copied in my native tongue!), the movie is peppered with million of clues and if the viewer fails to spot them, well tough luck. Nolan overdoes the clever clues bit here, and the viewer tends to get lost in an otherwise well intentioned thriller.

The Prestige is about two rival magicians - Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman), whose obsessive rivalry culminates in the apparent murder of Angier at the hands of Borden. Working as ringers for an established magician, Borden is the "natural" magician while Angier is the consummate showman. Rivalry turns into obsession when Borden invents an astounding trick which appears to move him from one closed cabinet to another in the blink of an eye.

Convinced that Borden's act is the real deal, Angier seeks help from acclaimed physicist Nikola Tesla (who had a similar rivalry with Thomas Edison in real life over Alternating Current!). Angier returns with some seriously impressive looking equipment and proceeds to announce 100 final acts of his show, at the end of one such show, he is murdered by Borden. Is Angier really dead? Is Borden's trick real? If so, how does he do it? Does Tesla's machine really work as well we are led to believe? The movie raises more questions than answers, and if you are left befuddled, you have only yourself to blame for not being as clever as the movie.

The casting couldn't have been more apt - Angier's innate charm and showmanship earns him more sympathy even when his character seems every bit as bad as Borden's, who is a better magician. In real life, Jackman is more the more popular of the two with his image as the charming, nice guy while Bale is a notch lower even though he is clearly the better actor. Michael Caine as Harry Cutter, Angier's illusion engineer is brilliant as usual. David Bowie as Tesla is a total scream! Scarlett Johansson is wasted here.

Verdict - Nowhere near Memento, but not bad.

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