Opening 4 Jan 2007
Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are magicians in Victorian London. This was a heyday for magicians including Harry Houdini. It was the beginning of the industrial revolution, or, for that matter, of film, when any invention seemed like magic. Although different in personality, Robert and Alfred respect each other until a horrible accident occurs and they become bitter enemies and competitors. Their tricks outside the theater don’t stop at adultery, spying or maiming a hand. One man develops an impossible trick and the other visits Nikola Tesla (Davie Bowie) in Colorado Springs to investigate electricity. (Teslas, a contemporary of Thomas Edison, is the only real historical figure.) Generally, tricks consist of three parts: the theme (the handkerchief is rolled into a ball), the effect (it disappears), and then the trick or prestige (it reappears in a different color).
Director Christopher Nolan has made an interesting film based on the book by Christopher Priest. He says, “I think that the two main characters are just two parts of one person.” Jackman and Bale work well together, especially Bale as a poor, haggard magician. Luckily, Bale has recovered from losing 60 pounds for The Machinist, but you knew that if you saw him in Batman Begins. Scarlett Johansson controls the market on being a magician’s helper, having just had a similar role in Scoop. Michael Caine plays a sensible engineer who develops tricks. The Prestige requires unlimited concentration; don’t even blink and don’t dare arrive late. Consider watching it twice, because the flashbacks are tricky, however, even a second viewing would be a pleasure. (Becky Tan)