At the risk of sounding like a jaded film critic, I seldom find myself thinking during a film, gee this is an unusual story. Typically, most movies follow well worn narrative paths and there are good reasons for that. The fact is, you don‚Äôt have to re-invent the story-telling wheel in order to make a […]
At the risk of sounding like a jaded film critic, I seldom find myself thinking during a film, gee this is an unusual story. Typically, most movies follow well worn narrative paths and there are good reasons for that. The fact is, you don‚Äôt have to re-invent the story-telling wheel in order to make a compelling film.
That said, about 45 minutes into The Prestige, the new film from Christopher Nolan, I found myself thinking, wow – this is fresh. The film is based on a novel by Christopher Priest, set in the late 19th century and focusses on two rival magicians, Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman and Alfred Borden played by Christian Bale (one of my favourite actors). The supporting cast is rock solid, David Julyan‚Äôs score works perfectly and Wally Pfister‚Äôs cinematography is every bit as assured as it was in his last outing with Nolan, on Batman Begins.
The title of the film is best explained with a quote, voiced by Cutter (Michael Caine),
Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called “The Pledge”; The magician shows you something ordinary, but of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”; The magician makes his ordinary some thing do something extraordinary. Now if you’re looking for the secret… you won’t find it, that’s why there’s a third act called, “The Prestige”; this is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you’ve never seen before.
You can probably guess that the three acts of the film play out like the three acts of the magic trick. That‚Äôs where the predictability ends. This is one of the most philosophically and morally interesting films I have seen for a long time. The plot-twists are not contrived devices (in stark contrast to the formularised MI3, which I finally saw this week), but are functions of a well-thought out plot. The characterisations are rich, with even minor characters imbued with depth. The historical milieu, at the advent of Electrical technology is well played and adds more than a few layers of depth to the story (David Bowie has a scenery-chewing cameo as the conspiracy theorist‚Äôs poster-boy Nikola Tesla). It‚Äôs riveting stuff.
Riveting and dark – because at its core The Prestige is a film about all the murky things that live within men‚Äôs hearts. I say men, because really this is a study of 30s and 40s malehood – competition, jealousy, envy and desire, hard-work, craft, fame and ultimately, sacrifice. The Prestige is quite relentless and brutal, which is also what makes it so refreshing. There is a little bit of hand-holding at the end, just to make sure you ‚Äúgot it‚Äù (the plot trick, as it were), but mostly this is intelligent adult film-fare.
I‚Äôm going to write more about this movie, probably a lot more. But for now, its time to pick up another ticket and see it again. This sort of film deserves a repeat viewing – probably many repeat viewings.
[tags] The Prestige [/tags]