The Prestige

prestigeChristopher Nolan’s bad movies are better than most people’s good ones.  I count three of them (Memento, Inception and The Dark Knight) among my all-time favourites, and I have enjoyed everything else of his that I’ve seen (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises, and Interstellar).  Noticeably absent from that list, until this week, was The Prestige, which usually appears near the top of critics’ “best of Nolan” lists.  So when The Prestige popped up on Netflix’s “recently added” row, I dove in immediately.

The Prestige is a tale of the ever-escalating war between two rival magicians, played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman.  Bale is the purer magician while Jackman is the larger commercial success.  As the stakes get ratcheted up, Bale is arrested for Jackman’s murder.  But in a battle of illusionists, can we really believe what we see?

Structurally, The Prestige is as complex as anything that Nolan has thrown at us.  This movie shouldn’t work as well as it does.  There are flashbacks within flashbacks but I knew at all times where/when a scene fit in with the rest of the film.  We’ve got enough examples by now of Nolan’s capabilities, but The Prestige is yet another display of his narrative mastery.  Basing the film on the three parts of a magic trick works very well, keeping the viewer on edge until the big reveal.

The reveal itself, though, left me disappointed.  It was a huge stretch that went completely against the movie’s prior suggestions that the secret of magic is setting up the trick and selling it to the audience.   I found the reveal of both Bale and Jackman’s methods problematic, in different ways, but Jackman’s big surprise was what really took the air out of the film for me.

Because of that, on my list The Prestige gets relegated to the lower tier of Nolan films, somewhere in Interstellar territory.   Make no mistake, though, that’s due to Nolan having made so many great films as opposed to The Prestige being a bad movie.  It’s still pretty damn good!

 

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “The Prestige

  1. Paul. Writer, Blogger and Filmmaker

    I love this film and think it’s up there with Memento and Inception in terms of his non-Batman movies. I know what you mean by the “sci-fi” prestige turn at the end but if you watch the film more than once the obsessional nature of the characters – in this case Jackman – really makes the leap more believable.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Sean Post author

      SPOILERS

      I agree the obsessional nature of Jackman’s character helps, but I couldn’t get over that his “trick” was to use real magic.

      Like

      Reply
  2. tubularsock

    Sean, Tubularsock is not a big fan of Batman and all that but you have me interested in this film which I would have just not bothered with until your review. Illusion/magic is always fun.
    So off Tubularsock goes or is it really Tubularsock going ………… we shall see.

    Like

    Reply
  3. Jay

    You’re right about the story being quite clean even though it’s so complex in structure. Nolan has a super talent for that, for never losing his audience, and I suppose also for trusting us to keep up.
    Not my favourite either. I don’t love magic, but I do think the performances are quite good.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Sean Post author

      Thanks, I’ll take a look. The narrative does make sense, which is impressive given the unique structure, and I certainly can’t argue with anyone who puts this in the upper tier of Nolan’s work. It’s amazingly well-crafted.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  4. Brittani

    I like this one, it surprised me. I was practically dragged to the theater for this one and I thought it looked so boring despite the cast. I’m glad to be proven wrong with enjoying movies.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  5. J.

    One of my favourite Nolan movies. Quite possibly in my top 10 of all time, too. Although initially unsure of the ending, I’ve watched it a few times and there are enough hints at his path being shaped by his obsession with Bale and revenge.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Dunkirk | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s