Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Prestige

Title: The Prestige (2006)
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

The Prestige is the second new film this year to get 5 stars from me (the first being V for Vendetta). I don't often give 5 stars, but I loved every second of this movie. The script, the performances, the cinematography - all perfect. Don't be fooled by that lame movie poster - The Prestige is quite possibly the best film of 2006.

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play competing magicians in turn-of-the-century London. Once colleagues, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden were driven apart after a tragic accident during their magic show. Their bitter rivalry turns into obsession when Borden performs the "ultimate" illusion and Angier desperately tries to uncover the trick. What follows is Angier and Borden relentlessly trying to one-up each other, which provides neverending suspense. I spent the entire film trying to guess what would happen next, only to have the rug pulled out from under me everytime.

The performances are all flawless. Jackman is the epitome of a man tormented by an obsession (see also, The Fountain) and Bale is the perfect foil. Michael Caine and David Bowie are ideally cast in their supporting roles. Scarlett Johansson's role is less of a character and more of a plot-point, but she is still very good.

What is so very brilliant about this film is that it's an illusion itself. Nolan plays tricks on the mind of the viewer, and his final act floored me in a way I haven't felt since The Usual Suspects. John and Chris Nolan, who co-wrote that other mind-fuck Memento, have constructed a complex, multi-layered story here.

And yet, I walked away from my first viewing understanding the story almost completely. It is brilliant, yet fairly easy to follow. And the more you think about it afterwards, the more it blows your mind. Every tiny detail is important and carefully placed in the story. I suggest you listen to the film's tagline, and watch very closely.