Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan reunites with Christian Bale and Michael Caine for a twisted murder mystery set in the world of Victorian-era magicians. Bale plays Alfred Borden, a conjuror accused of murdering his rival, Robert Angier (Jackman), after a life-long feud.
As Borden awaits trial on death row he receives Angier’s diary from a mystery source, and through a series of flashbacks we learn how the two men were originally close friends before a tragic accident destroyed their relationship forever. From that moment on, Borden and Angier become fatally obsessed with outdoing each other as they dedicate their lives to inventing the greatest illusion the world had ever seen.
Adapted by Nolan and his brother Jonathan from Christopher Priest’s novel, The Prestige follows the traditional three-stage structure of a magic trick - set-up, performance, reveal (the prestige) – with thrilling results.
Working out the answer to the age-old question of “how did he do that?” is a challenging experience, particularly after the level of deception and cinematic sleight-of-hand employed by Nolan to throw his viewers off the scent.
But as well as cunning trickery, the movie tackles interesting themes of obsession, retribution and the power of celebrity, proving there is also substance under the stylish sheen.
Of the all-star cast, Jackman gives a mature performance as the slick showman driven by ambition, while Bale confirms his stance in the Hollywood A-List, and Johansson even manages a fairly decent English accent.
With only a “Director's Notebook documentary” to accompany the film you would be foolish not to wait for the inevitable “Special Edition” release later in the year before parting with your hard earned cash.
Using an intentionally muddled plotline involving flashbacks, framing devices and misdirection, the movie is most reminiscent of Nolan’s career defining 2000 hit Memento.
Early on in The Prestige Borden asks “Are you watching closely?”, make sure you are.
Staring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, David Bowie, Piper Perabo, Andy Serkis, Rebecca Hall
Extras: The Director's Notebook documentary, Theatrical trailer