The Prestige (2006) — Magicians trying to get the final word

“Never show anyone. They’ll beg you and they’ll flatter you for the secret, but as soon as you give it up… you’ll be nothing to them.”

Justin’s rating: Harry Potter and the Order of the Deathly Chambers of Stones. Part II.

Justin’s review: In college I spent a summer break in the Catskill Mountains at my friend Lance’s aunt and uncle’s. Said uncle was a practicing magician who often performed on the side of his real job. One day, without much introduction or aplomb, he began performing all sorts of slight of hand and other magic tricks as we stood there talking. Now, I’ve seen magic before, from David Copperfield on TV to your local theater wizard, but this was the first time I was less than a foot away from the tricks being performed, and I still couldn’t figure them out.

The fascination with magic is in the frustration: you know you’re being tricked, but your mind keeps whispering “What if it’s real?” until you need to know the secret or you think you will go mad.

The Prestige is very forthright with what you are about to see. They tell you that it’s a trick. They want to dazzle you with a great show. And they dare you to figure it out before the big reveal. You know there will be layers upon layers, misdirection galore, and showmanship. The clues will not be hidden, but shown for all to see. You will love it, and it will drive you to the brink of insanity.

In director Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to Batman Begins, he brings back Christian Bale and Michael Caine in another fine turn, along with Hugh Jackman. It’s Batman vs. Wolverine, as Robert (Jackman) and Alfred (Bale) face off as two rival stage magicians at the turn of the 20th century. After a dreadful accident that turns them from friends into enemies, they vow to make their shows the best the world’s ever seen while at the same time sabotaging each other at any cost.

It’s a film about magic and illusions, and one of the things to know about magic is that it’s the science of being a dirty rotten cheater — there are no boundaries when it comes to making a trick work. And once explained, the magic loses its spark in the audience’s imagination, and is often replaced with disappointment or even anger. In the bottom of our hearts, we sort of want magic tricks to be real, or if not real, then feats of extraordinary talent. When you discover that a gadget and some minor misdirection accomplishes the mission, then “it’s not fair!” escapes your lips. But, see, you were tricked. You allowed yourself to be. Everything’s fair if that happens.

I realize that this review is more of a minor essay on my incredibly limited experiences with stage magic, but I simply cannot spoil this movie for you. Rest assured, it is fantastic. Slow as it draws you in, but rich and interesting for its entire length. I now know the trick as it’s been revealed, and it was worth it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s