"The Prestige" (2006)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Released: October 20th, 2006
Runtime: 130 minutes
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
An illusion gone horribly wrong pits two 19th-century magicians, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman), against each other in a bitter battle for supremacy. Terrible consequences loom when the pair escalate their feud, each seeking not just to outwit -- but to destroy -- the other man.
Under the recommendation of one of my friends, I watched this film just over two years ago now. I was so blown away by it the first time, in my head I refused to watch it again because I was so afraid it wouldn’t be as good as the first time or that I had somehow got too taken up with its brilliance that I had missed something which would knock it from the pedestal it had so suddenly been put upon. I never thought of it as my one of my favourite films despite this, because to me, all of my favourite films are ones I would watch again and again even after being blown away by them the first time. On this particular occasion, the rug had been pulled too many times and too fast. It was too good.
Now two years later, I decided that enough time had passed where I could re-watch the film and still have the majority of it feel new to me. Obviously, there were moments that were embedded in my head that had made it so good the first time. But there would undoubtedly be certain details, new perspectives being two years older [and wiser]. And of course, all this was true. There was a huge chunk of the film I had completely forgotten about and was coming back to me as it happened. So, in a way, parts were like watching it for the first time again. And it blew me away just as it had the first time.
The foreshadowing in this film is something else altogether. Each and every moment is essential. There are lines and moments that come back in such a huge way later on, it’s so important to always stay alert. “Are you watching?” is a line frequently asked throughout the film and you better make sure that you are. From scenes as simple as Borden breaking into Sarah’s house to offer himself tea at the beginning of the film, to the scenes involving the dead doves. I repeat: Are you watching??!
The characters Borden and Angier are so strong and so well developed and crafted. Not to mention portrayed by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. Secrets and obsession are the themes of the film and it delves into these ideas so thoroughly through their characters. Their secrets and their obsessions respectively, lead to each of their downfalls as they go such extremes to keep or see them through.
There are essentially two major twists in the ending of the film. The first, for me, was the most exhilarating the first time I watched it because I found it so unexpected. The second, I think honestly, while I was blown away I think it went over my head because it was revealed in such quick succession and I was still in an excitable frenzy over the revelation of the first twist. Watching it the second time I found myself noticing all the clues that are placed in front of you, sometimes literally telling you, the first twist. I found this just as exciting and in hindsight I don’t know why I didn’t come to the conclusion the first time. I’m glad I didn’t because it was more fun, and it’s probably only obvious because I know what it is – which is pretty much the whole theme of the film.
On that note, this is what makes this film. It tells you repeatedly, over and over again how the trick is done but the dialogue tells you exactly what you do unconsciously. “Now you're looking for the secret. But you won't find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.” I think the last sentence rings true for me in terms of the second big revelation right before the credits. The second-time round, this did not go over my head and I did have a little think about it, as one does, at the end of the film. And once again, as the film tells you time and time again, “The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything.” I just find the explanation far too unbelievable and unrealistic to take as a legit explanation. Now I know that’s probably the point. I mean, here we have a magician who would be essentially a real-life magician who can do real magic if this is honestly true. It ruins the illusion of the film for me. Which again, is the whole point the film is making. I’m going around in circles here. The film also does its share of iterating the point: simple is always the most effective strategy. A sure irony considering that Christopher Nolan’s films are anything but simple.
I don’t know what more I can say. Except if you haven’t watched it already add it to your list! It’s a show you won’t want to miss.