‘The Prestige’ in review

A cinematic drama tells a story of 19th century magic

More stories from Sadie Sedlmayr



Are you watching closely? Because what you’re about to see in Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige” is a masterpiece.

The 2006 film stages illusion as well as the ingenuity of enchantment in which the tricks are created. It is set in a highly stylized late-Victorian London world of magic, rivalry, vengeance and secrecy.

What makes “The Prestige” different from all the rest is its deliberate urge to deceive, puzzle, manipulate and astonish the viewing audience from its inception to the climactic, shocking end.

It isn’t the only film to make a go of it. Neil Burger’s “The Illusionist” (2006) and Louis Leterrier’s “Now You See Me” (2013) both incorporate aspects of illusion into their critically successful productions, but neither manifests the trickery of what goes into  magic and its execution quite like this motion picture.

“The Prestige” combines the intricacy of showmanship with the flashy yet authentic nuts and bolts of illusion and, perhaps most extraordinary of all, these two parts of the film never seem to clash.

Whether you’re a magic aficionado or simply like to leave the theater feeling hoodwinked, this dark drama flick has the unique ability to lull its audience into a tailspin of deception and intrigue that’ll have you on the edge of your seat and second-guessing until the end credits roll.

The story highlights the incurable obsession two former friends turned rival magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) have for one another after one fatal illusion act gone wrong costs Angier’s wife Julia (Piper Perablo) her life at the hands of Borden’s poor judgement.

The film then focuses on the proceedings of a murder trial, in addition to the flashbacks of the events that followed that deadly freak accident.

What follows is a bitter competition between two characters as both men feel the need to one-up the other by performing the same version of a trick in different theaters and showing up to each other’s performances in disguise, in attempts to steal secrets, sabotage tricks or cause public embarrassment.

The story is punctuated with dark twists and turns, high-level storytelling and enchanted trickeries. It all unfolds to an electrifying finish that you won’t see coming.

In terms of acting, the leading characters’ performances are convincing and top-tier. Bale and Jackman definitely did their parts justice.

Their “wow” factor was evident every time I saw them on screen. The viewer is swept into a realistic performance from the beginning by Jackman, as he plummets deeper and deeper into the act of madness while he plots his revenge against Bale’s character. Bale gives an accurate representation of being the better, more tortured-soul musician, with the most secrets.

Christopher Nolan’s beautiful mind really showed in this dazzling cinematic masterpiece. Nolan stayed true to himself, and I must say his one-of-a-kind storytelling and visual imagery spoke to me in a way that no film ever has before.

With its very eccentric flashbacks, enigmatic tone and mystifying plot, “The Prestige” proves to be highly intriguing and a must-see that you’ll want to see again the second it’s over.

“The Prestige” will be screened at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Woodland Theater.