October 29, 2006

MOVIES: The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)

Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are stage magicians in turn-of-the-century London; their rivalry is personal from the beginning -- Angier blames Borden for the death of his wife during a risky illusion --and each man takes increasingly drastic measures to defeat the other. When Borden presents the inexplicable illusion "The Transported Man," Angier becomes obsessed with learning the secret and finding a way to top the trick.

This is a movie of delicious twists from start to finish, and it's difficult to say much about the plot without giving away things that should remain surprises. Some of those twists you may see coming, but I think even the sharpest viewer is going to be caught off guard somewhere in the movie.

The performances are top-notch. In addition to Jackman and Bale, each growing more obsessed with defeating his rival, and more bitter about his own failures, there's solid work from Michael Caine as Cutter the ingeneur, the designer of the illusions and mechanical devices the magicians use; Scarlett Johansson as a magician's assistant; and David Bowie as pioneering electrician Nikola Tesla, who is recruited by Angier to find a way to perform his own "Transported Man" illusion.

Christopher Priest's novel has been adapted by director Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan; they've created a fiendishly clever movie that is a joy from start to finish. Most enthusiastically recommended.

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