The Prestige (2006) Directed by Christopher Nolan


I realised after a few minutes of The Prestige that I had been lured in to watch another Christopher Nolan movie without me knowing...I can't say I liked his Batman visions. The cast of The Prestige gave the director away, but so did the dramatic, mystical grimness of this movie. For the first half an hour I was rather doubtful of the whole ordeal. I'm not curious about magic, so I thought I just would not care about a movie depicting two rivalling magicians.

Luckily, I stuck with the film long enough so that it sucked me in. The story is actually interesting enough and the main characters create enough emotional tension for me to keep watching. It also turns out that The Prestige is not a movie about magic, but a piece about the all-encompassing competitive nature of two men. They are willing to kill, die, and anything in between in order to beat each other.

This seemingly instinctual competitiveness appears to rule over many of us people even today. At its worst it leads to wars, at its best maybe into the betterment of an individual. I sense a testosterone smell with the word competition. It is rather strange to me. Why can't two magicians exist side by side, or two kings rule in their countries in peace? Humans do not like too much difference – it makes us uncomfortable, even to the point of violence. But similarity seems to be too much to us too...
Anyhow, I recommend The Prestige for entertainment and for Michael Caine.

Rivalry in all its many guises is something that drives me on. Don't know why, but I possess a competitive streak. I want to do the things I do better than anyone else does. I'm also required to have a giant ego (though I do try to hide this), but I take pride in the things I do and I feel I do those things better than anyone else. How conceited and self-loving can one sound. But this is the distinct attitude you have have to be the best. To push myself to be the perfect human being. I have complete confidence in my abilities and failure is not an option. Dear reader, I am better than you in every way. To prove this, I shall make the computer you are reading this review from disappear. Gone. But you don't know if it's gone, or is it an optical illusion? A slight of the hand and are you now imagining this review in your imagination? Vanished. Is my overbearing arrogance too much for you, perhaps you should lie down and let me explain. What kind of trick is this? Maybe these words can shed some light, eh? Or,  is everything I've just written completely fake?

Bowie in The Prestige
Before we get too excited, lets remind ourselves that The Prestige is in essence Batman vs Wolverine with Alfred the Butler and Ziggy Stardust thrown in. Actually, maybe we should get a bit excited! Christian Bale does cockney, Hugh Jackman does posh, Scarlett Johansson is here (not really sure why other than to look good), Michael Caine does his Alfred and David Bowie steals the film while no-one's looking (or was it a trick of the light?) as Nikola Tesla. Of course, I do The Prestige a disservice, as this film weaves its own (erm) magic and tells the story of how two rival magicians try to outdo each other and become the best tricksters in town circa London early 1900's. So, we have tricks, brinksmanship and nothing really is what it seems.

Scarlett Johansson stretches her range in The Prestige.
Nolan brings us a different kind of movie (although one could argue his whole career has been built on some form of trickery). He tells this story well, and if the performances (especially Bale) seem perfunctory, he teases one of the career best from Bowie. The Prestige is clever rather than smartarse and never too knowing. It could be a prank itself amongst its claims of realness, we'll never know. It's not up to Welles' F For Fake, because that was real life (not really) and this is drama, but those distinctions wear pretty thin because at the end of the day it's all cinema and none of this is real.


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