The magic of Christopher Nolan’s mind is presented through a tedious and honest attempt to portray human relations, rivalry among all others, in a package wrapped with magic and tricks in his 2006 film The Prestige. It shows to what extent a man can go for victory in an unfair race; it shows how much sacrifice a man undergoes for his passion, to create a perfect trick: for a chef-d’oeuvre of artistry.
Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) began together as assistants to a magician but after an unfortunate accident resulting in the death of Robert’s wife, believing that Alfred tied an advanced knot in their trick to be a cause for her death, Robert and Alfred parted ways to become successful rivals in the business; The Professor and The Great Danton. After gaining fame and trying to sabotage each other’s performance, Alfred “The Professor” comes up with “The Transported Man”, hailing it as his masterpiece. In his quest to bare his rival’s trick, Robert convinces Tesla, the eccentric genius to make a teleportation machine for his own trick. Robert frames Alfred for his “murder”; which is strategically done every night by a new Robert emerging into the stage after his version of the Transportation Man.
In terms of complexity of the plot and the underlying philosophy the film is certainly top-notch; but the overall effect the film has on the viewer because of the escapist “magic” in the device Tesla designed for Robert is somewhat lessened then that would have been if it was a trick. Had it not been in the supernatural the film would have felt more real. The rise and fall of Alfred was also an important skip that cost the film some depth in the existing story. In terms of filmmaking, I would prefer The Illusionist another film on magic in the same year by Neil Burger starring the brilliant Edward Norton and Jessica Biel. The Prestige lacked the intensity in the part of the director to take the story forward; it relied more on the plot and editing to do so. But moving forward and backward in time throughout causes a little temporal “confusion” distracting the viewer from the visuals and loose ends.
One of the main themes of the film is the sacrifice Borden makes for the sake of performing his magic trick; he never divulge the presence of his identical twin brother even to the women they each loved nor he tells his manager the fact. They together lived as a single entity: one human being, each with a half of a single existence. When their choices clashed, they each compromised for the sake of their performing magic: which is their life-force, their soul. Similarly it is evident that Nolan deploys a rivalry well suited: one a man had nothing, the other left everything, one has women, another lost his woman, one has talent, another develops himself mechanically, and lastly magic is one’s life, and another’s passion; both Alfred and Robert are similar yet infinitely different.
A great moment in the film is when Cutter (Michael Caine) sends both Robert and Alfred to a Chinese magician’s show to find out his trick. Robert, being a man whose passion is magic, is awestruck by his show. But Alfred, a natural and born magician understands the trick in a single view. There we see the level of sacrifice a man makes for performing arts; the magician acts a cripple his entire public life to mark the trick with appreciation.The smiles of Alfred and Robert after witnessing the trick speak tons about their natural gifts. In the end the sacrifices of Alfred are shown proving that how much talent one may have, perseverance and sacrifice are also the basic necessity of achieving greatness.
The cast comprising Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlet Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Michael Caine and others can be termed as a “perfect 10” ensemble. Everyone is apt in their role as the character assigned while equally supporting the other supporting members. Wally Pfister’s camera and lighting is also accommodating for the actors to portray their on-screen persona. The images may not be too artistic but are exactly what was needed for a mainstream Hollywood movie. Though his work here is good to some extent but its lacks much of the hypnotism of his later works with Nolan in The Dark Knight and Inception. The music is also a good counterpart to the other sectors of the production to gift an entertaining package. Lack of temporal continuity, moving back and forth in the timeline creates a good method of storytelling with the help of editing in Hollywood, where mostly, continuity editing is used on a large-scale.
The Prestige is no doubt a good film, but compared to the other works of Nolan, such as Memento, The Dark Knight and Inception, it is certainly the weaker one. But when films related to the subject of magic are concerned, it is certainly a good attempt in the modern film industry.
Film Score: 67
Director: Christopher Nolan Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan Story: Christopher priest Cinematography: Wally Pfister Editing: Lee Smith Production Design: Nathan Crowley Music: David Julyan Cast: Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine.