(2006) dir. Christopher Nolan
viewed: 10/31/06 at Regal Cinemas Manchester Mall Stadium 16, Fresno, CA
Director Christopher Nolan teams back up with Michael Caine and Christian Bale to squeeze in a non-super hero movie between installments of their freshly revived Batman series of films, and it’s typically a good one. Having made his name with Memento (2000), Nolan has come out on top as one of the better directors in mainstream Hollywood and he often works with dark, interesting material.
The Prestige is a tale of an unhealthy rivalry between two magicians somewhere near the turn of the 20th Century and is based on a novel by Christopher Priest with which I am unfamiliar. It’s an interesting topic for film, as magic and illusion and showmanship have clear cinematic parallels. Nolan doesn’t particularly exploit these, which I actually found sort of to be a good thing…maybe it’s too obvious to dwell on these connections too overtly. Still, deception and trickery, narrative sleights of hand are what make this film clever and a pretty good cast pitches in. David Bowie as Nikolai Tesla is pretty fun.
It’s weird that there is another “turn of the century” magician film out there right now, too, The Illusionist (2006), which isn’t supposed to be too bad either. I have never really understood the phenomenon about how competing big budget films on similar themes come to a head in the same seasonal market. It’s not like the world was teaming with such films prior to this point. It has happened many times and I am sure will continue to happen until someone figures out that it’s just a bad idea.
The drama in this film is largely okay, though it flails a bit at times when it’s trying to deliver the emotional whammies. When Hugh Jackman tries to explain that the reason for striving to be a magician is the “expression” on people’s faces when they question their beliefs in fathoming “magic”, it’s pretty weak. But the film is good, solid, and entertaining. Not overly remarkable, but definitely enjoyable.