The Prestige is Christopher Nolan's new thriller and also the second film about magicians that we've seen in the past few months. A lot of people compare it to The Illusionist, but in fact we have two very different films here. The Prestige tells the story of Robert (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred (Christian Bale), two friends who make their living as magicians in London. The two start to become competatitve and try and outdo each other with every new trick. When Alfred performs the amazing transportation trick it drives Robert insane as he tries to figure out the secret. His assistant played by Michael Caine says he uses a double, but Robert believes otherwise. He travels to see Nikola Tesla (played surprisingly well by David Bowie), a mysterious man who designed a machine for Alfred once. Tesla's assistant is played by the one and only Andy Serkis who is finally branching away from Peter Jackson. What follows is a great and entertaining film, but it's really more about the tricks and the twists than it is about the characters.
The film is incredibly stylish and it has Christopher Nolan written all over it. He crafts a great film and follows the structure of the magician's act. Act one of the film is indeed the pledge, and we see something that seems ordinary but probably isn't. This seemingly innocent rivalry is more than meets the eye. Act two is the turn in where the magician makes this ordinary something become extraordinary. This point comes when Alfred performs the inexplicably amazing transportation trick. We think we know what's going on, but Nolan knows where he's leading his audience; we know nothing. The final act is called the prestige, where all the twists and turns are presented to the audience. Once this suspense ride finally resolves and ends, the audience is left sitting tensely in their seats as the screen fades to black. "Directed By Christopher Nolan" appears on the screen and we realize who the true magician is. The film is a wild ride with incredible atmosphere and great acting. You truly are captivated by the setting of the film. David Julyan's tense ambient score keeps things on the edge and Wally Pfister's dark and muted cinematography creates the perfect mood. The only flaw of the film is the lack of emotion we as the audience have for the characters. Throughout the entire film we are thinking "oh, what turn is going to happen next?!", not "what is going to happen to Robert!". Don't get me wrong, the characters are strong enough to carry the film, but the film should be centered around them not the magic.
As in terms of acting we get a fine slate. Christopher Nolan brings his Batman Begins buddies back and we have Christian Bale and Michael Caine. Hugh Jackman has the lead role with supporting work from David Bowie, Andy Serkis, and Scarlett Johansson. Christian Bale steals the show and crafts a very deceiving character, which all the more helps the impact of the twist ending. Bale finally gets to act with his native English accent, and it's interesting to hear him with it since we are so used to him speaking with an American accent. Hugh Jackman does a superb job at matching Bale's screen presence. The acting is great all around, and it always is when it's a Nolan film.
Nolan delivers a crafty and suspenseful film. It's visually stunning with great cinematography and set design. However, on the character side it lacks to deliver an emotional punch, the film is purely contextual. It's a great movie though that promises to entertain.