Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Prestige

Watched The Prestige (2006) at the weekend. Great.

Its a tale of two rival stage magicians / performers in Victorian London. Christian Bale plays Alfred Borden a.k.a. 'The Professor' - an excellent magician but without the flair of Robert Angier a.k.a. 'The Great Danton', played by Hugh Jackman, who is a great performer but perhaps not as great a magician.

At the outset they are colleagues working together on a magic show. But an accident happens on stage which may or may not have been the fault of Alfred and Robert's wife dies. From this point on they are rivals, each seeking to out-perform and best the other, and occasionally resorting to underhand tricks and worse to bring the other down.

There are many twists and turns in this movie and it is hard to comment on it without giving anything major away. So much falls into place at the end that you want to go back and watch it for a second time, just to see how everything fits together.

The performances of the main actors are great and Scarlett Johansson adds an extra bit of shine to the film. However, Michael Caine is Michael Caine and I have no idea what David Bowie is supposed to be. It takes a few minutes of screen time for both of them to turn into character, rather than being the iconic actor and singer. Good to see Andy Serkis in a film where he's not being a CGI puppet, even if his role is small.

Minor spoiler below.

But I have one gripe with the film. For most of the film we see the illusionists wowing the audience with 'how on earth did they do that?' type trickery. But at one point (towards the end), one of the magicians does something which is actually impossible (or certainly is currently impossible with today's technology and certainly would have been impossible in Victorian times, however clever Mr Tesla might have been; but maybe it will be possible in the future, who knows?) and this is dressed up as 'science'. But this is really pure science-fiction. The film crosses the boundary from possible fiction to impossible fiction and in some way that cheapened the cleverness of the 'magic', even if there is a further twist that is quite shocking, and more so the more you think about it.

But I can't let that minor gripe spoil the review. Although it took a while to grab my attention, it was a very good film once it got going and the ending was all it should have been. Recommended.

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