Are you watching closely? Every magic trick consists of three parts, or acts. The first part is called the pledge. The magician shows you something ordinary, a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object, perhaps he asks you to inspect it, to see that it is indeed real. Normal. Of course, it probably isn’t. The second act is called the turn. The magician takes the ordinary something ands makes it do something extraordinary. Now, you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it. Because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet, because making something disappear isn’t enough. You have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act. The hardest part. The part we call the prestige.
And so begins the story of The Prestige.
The Prestige follows the story of two magicians – Robert Angier and Alfred Borden – in turn of the century London. They at first work together, serving under another magician. But after a falling out (which I shall endeavor to leave out all major plot twists so that you might more fully enjoy the story when you partake of this film) that is spurred on by severe tragedy that is experienced by Angier. From there we follow each man as they go their separate ways , pursuing their own careers as magicians. Their hatred for each other continues to grow, and each shows up at the other’s performances in order to discredit them in front of their audience. The movie’s story is not a straightforward narrative style, but is filled with flashbacks and even begins with segments from the final 15 minutes of the movie. But what else would one expect from the director ofMemento?
The movie climaxes as the viewer is taken through a roller coaster of twists and turns, always keeping you guessing at the true secret behind the tricks are, and wondering at what will happen next. We spend most of the movie feeling as if we are at the turn, just shy of the prestige, just shy of the payoff. And thankfully, the prestige, the payoff does not come off feeling as if it is a cop out, or a farce of an ending. The ending is actually quite rewarding.
Hugh Jackman does an excellent job playing a man obsessed with finding out Borden’s secret, even to the point where it totally consumes him. He in one scene even utters that he does not care about his wife… he only cares about the secret. Christian Bale turns in an excellent performance as a man who has more twists and turns than anyone might expect. We are truly drawn into this story of an escalating rivalry that seems to have no end in sight.
Now to be objective, there is a lot about this movie that drives this reviewer to recommend it to you. The overarching theme or revenge, obsession and rivalry is painted as one that is unhealthy, wrong and something that will only end in pain. The movie drives home the point that there are many character traits that these men have which are undesirable. It also informs us that appearances are not always the truth, and one must look deep underneath sometimes to find the truth. Human life is held in high regard by most of the characters, and the couple who do not realize how far they have gone and how utterly wrong it has been. Marriage is looked upon as the sacred union it should be considered as by most in the movie.
There is a small message of revenge being worth it from a couple of the characters. There is an element of infidelity amongst two characters that, while looked down upon by most, they do not see anything wrong with what they are doing.
All in all, I highly recommend this film. It will force you to think, especially about your own life and motives you might have for something such as revenge, or an unhealthy obsession. And it will keep you guessing, it will force you to think, instead of being mindlessly entertained. Rent it. Watch it. Discuss it.
Are you watching closely?