Last year saw two well-made mysteries about Victorian/Edwardian magicians. I enjoyed both, but prefer The Prestige. It also features a strong genre element and, since we missed it first time ’round, we’re posting it as this week’s Saturday Review.
Hunt for eggs. Whoopee.
Title: The Prestige
Cast, Crew, and Other Info:
Director: Christopher Nolan.
Christian Bale as Alfred Borden
Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier
Michael Caine as Cutter
Piper Perabo as Julia McCullough
Scarlett Johansson as Olivia Wenscombe
Samantha Mahurin as Jess
Rebecca Hall as Sarah
David Bowie as Nikola Tesla
After a fatal turn to a trick ends their friendship, two late Victorian magicians carry on an escalating, life-long feud.
1. The plot features time-shifts and complex twists, but Nolan presents it in a manner which never becomes pointlessly confusing.
2.David Bowie’s appearances as Tesla.
We have to accept certain things to make this movie work, but even in context, this one stretches credability at times. Tesla’s machine, coincidentally, really works? It’s only ever used for a conjurer’s trick? Or, if the machine doesn’t actually work…. Okay, that’s an argument for the discussion board. We also have the convention of rivals in a thriller perfecting calling (when the plot requires) each other’s responses to various plots.egg
Originality: 5/6. egg
Story: 5/6 See High and Low points.
Effects: 6/6 The special effects are entirely convincing, though often low-key. I don’t mean to drag in that other magical rivalry– The Prestige vs The Illustionist— because they are fundamentally different kinds of films, but the latter’s tricks look like CGI effects that could never have been staged in real life, now or one hundred years ago.1 Even the most far-fetched tricks in The Prestige look like something that could have appeared on stage.egg
Acting. 6/6. This film features an impressive cast, and they turn in strong performances. Interestingly, three of the lead actors have played lead roles in comic-inspired films. David Bowie makes a remarkable supporting appearance as Nikola Tesla.
Production: 5/6. Many of the key clues to the mystery take the form of memorable images: the cats and the hats, the secret of the theatre’s cellar.
Emotional Response: 5/6. The film creates suspense, even though you will likely anticipate some of its twists. At other times, the mood becomes downright creepy.
The Prestige receives a total score of 37/42
1. I don’t want to take The Illusionist’s tricks too literally. A less spectacular version of the growing tree, for example, was performed by Robert Houdin. Perhaps we’re supposed to be seeing them with the same sense of wonder as a nineteenth-century audience.