The Prestige (Nolan, 2006)

A lifeless and punchless thriller, surprising since it comes from one of the more interesting genre filmmakers working today. The Prestige is first and foremost a revenge film, namely between two rival magicians in late 19th century England. Christian Bale as Alfred Borden (dangerous, risk taker, yada yada yada) and Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier (conservative, great showman, yada yada yada) rage back and forth, passive aggressively I might add for most of the film, sabotaging each other’s acts, trying to one up each other at the cost of everyone involved, including Borden’s family and Angier’s assistant/love interest Olivia, played quite well by Scarlet Johanson.

The setup is tired and the magic never overwhelms, even some of the tricks are downright bad. Neither main actor plays their character’s with any dangerous force. I never believed Jackman as a magician and Bale pulls it off simply because he’s got a intensity inherant in his features. Nolan once again uses ellipses to attempt some sort of uniqueness to the otherwise tired story, all bent on a twist ending which isn’t necessarilly a twist at all, more of a lame explanation of character that attempts to create dual layers of subtext. If only I cared that much after over two hours of redudancy in tone and motivation.

Nolan, who made the masterful Batman Begins and struck gold earlier with Memento, obviously has talent to spare. His shooting style and sets impress a great desire to seduce. Unfortunately, the lack of tension in the story and the familiar character traits don’t compliment the fantastic visual sensibility. The Prestige feels like a complete non-entity, a film that will be forgotten in no time. I can’t call this a complete disaster, but from the pedigree of people involved, I wish they hadn’t taken the easy way out in making a standard and completely uninteresting picture. For a greater story and fulfilling experience, see Neil Burger’s The Illusionist, a period piece unafraid of developing and challenging traditional storytelling. The Prestige simply plays with old tricks.

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