Nolan's Inception of Deception
"The Prestige" is at times quite a magnificent movie, it has atmosphere, style, intrigue and a few dark alleys which it leads you down but it also falls short most notably in stretching the boundaries of believability too far and in doing so delivers a clever but cop out of a conclusion. Don't get me wrong, "The Prestige" is a good movie and from it's inception it will have you gripped but then it does something which is out of character and in doing so disappoints. As Michael Caine's character, Cutter, eloquently explains at the start of the movie every magic trick consists of three acts: (1) the Pledge, in which a seemingly real situation is set up, (2) the Turn, in which the initial reality is challenged, and (3) the Prestige, where all is set right again. Unfortunately "The Prestige" fails to deliver the prestige, set up so well in the first two acts.
When a spectacular illusion goes disastrously wrong, apprentice magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman - X-Men: The Last Stand) and Alfred Bordon (Christian Bale - Batman Begins) find themselves driven past the point of reconciliation. As time passes Robert becomes increasingly jealous of Bordon's superior talent for magic and will stoop to any level to try and out do his one time partner no matter what the consequences are.
"The Prestige" starts well and the introductory scene featuring Cutter explaining the 3 acts of a trick works well, but then "The Prestige" does something which I am not overly keen on, it jumps all over the place between different times in the story. One minute we are getting introduced to the characters then the next we are further along in the story before returning back to what feels like it should be the natural timeline. Some may enjoy this but for me it made the movie just a little too disjointed and although not overly confusing can cause you to try and work out where the story is going and in doing so may cause you to miss something of importance. Maybe that was the idea, to confuse you so that the pay off feels more spectacular than it actually is.
What makes "The Prestige" work for the most is the fact the storyline revolves around old time magic and illusion. There is something about this subject that makes it so intriguing, maybe it's the fact that some well known tricks are explained whilst others still remain a mystery. I'm not sure but it works well as a basis for the movie. Tie this in to the fact that the story focuses strongly on the rivalry between the two magicians and it is quite engrossing.
What is also very prominent is the level of atmosphere which director Christoper Nolan delivers in "The Prestige"; he does this masterfully and pulls you into what is going on. Plus of course you have the two major illusions which each of the magicians use in their acts and for the most the story encourages you to try and work out how they would be done. But here lies the problem, "The Prestige" tells you how they are done and whilst one is not so much surprising but crucial to the storyline the other pushes the barriers of the movie too far leaving you feeling disappointed.
On the acting front "The Prestige" is not bad, Christian Bale is effective as the talented Alfred Bordon who lacks the showmanship which Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman, possesses. Both are believable as your pretty much average magicians, the sort which would fill theatres but not get the headlines like Houdini did. They are even convincing when it comes to the personal rivalry running between them. But the performances are nothing out of the ordinary and at times it feels a little average. Even the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson as Angier's assistant adds little other than beauty to the movie, but her performance is not bad. The performance with the most charm is that of Michael Caine as Cutter, the master mind behind many of the illusions. He seemed perfectly suited to the role and with "The Prestige" being set in Victorian London his cockney accent shone out.
What this all boils down to is that "The Prestige" is not a bad movie and for pure entertainment it works remarkably well. The initial set up which lays the root of the story works well and so does the middle section. It is just the fact that despite so much work to build up what could be a really good movie, the ending feels like a cop out, it breaks the rules of the story to such an extent that the lack of imagination to keep it within its own terms is a disappointment.