Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Prestige


At the beginning of the Nolan brothers' flick "The Prestige," Michael Caine tells us there are three parts to every magic trick, the pledge, the turn and the prestige.

In a movie about magic tricks, you need a fourth part, the reveal, and that's where they lost a little bit of steam in this mostly satisfying flick.

What's the pledge? Well, just as in Christopher Priest's fantastic novel, it's the story of two competing magicians so consumed by rivalry that it takes over their lives. In the movie, it's Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, who each bring enough heft to the roles to make us care about their oneupmanship.

I, at least, was hooked as they raised the stakes, no small feat given that the book itself is told through a series of diary entries made by each magician. Without revealing anything else about the rather complicated plot, the Nolans work the diaries into the movie well while fleshing out the story with some of their own liberties.

The turn is where we learn more about each man, and where you have to pay the most attention or quickly be left behind. I have trouble even talking about this because I don't want to give anything away, but it builds on the themes of identity and the loss of it that Christopher Nolan has mastered in all his best flicks.

What they work toward is the prestige, and for its time, its a doozy. The Transported Man, which they each adapt in their own way, involves the magician seeming to teleport across the stage or even the theater. If we were watching an actual magic show, we'd be left with that, mouths agape in wonder.

But this being a movie, of course, there has to be a reveal, and I'm sure this is what will divide viewers of "The Prestige." As each magician reveals to the other how he mastered the feat, many will be left with a resounding "huh?"

It's the same reaction I had to "The Usual Suspects" and "Donnie Darko," two movies I've learned to love after multiple viewings, especially "Donnie Darko." I apologize that I can't reveal more than that myself, but I want anyone who hasn't read this great book to go into the movie knowing as little as possible.

Because with this movie, like with any great magic trick, its all about the thrill of discovery.

And the Georgia Bulldogs have just held on for a 3-point victory over the lowly Mississippi State Bulldogs, which with the way this season has gone so far is quite a trick in itself.

12 comments:

Lori said...

I've been looking forward to this flick. I was hoping it was gonna be worth the effort of getting a babysitter and all. Sounds like it is.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'd say it is, Lori ... Like I said, I think it will leave more than a few people scratching their heads or even angry, but truly great movies, to me, should always provoke a strong reaction from the audience, and this one does

Anonymous said...

I guess great minds go to the same movies at the same time and then review them in their blog! LOL. Anyway, I didn't mind the reveal myself--I thought it was inventive and wholly unexpected, although there were hints throughout the film. At any rate, I have to agree. I think there are going to be some people who are going to be scratching their heads or even angry over The Prestige.

Reel Fanatic said...

I think I will pick up on more of the hints about the reveal when I get to see this one again, Mercurie, which I will probably do even before it leaves the theater

Javatari said...

Having a great love of magic myself, I've been looking forward to seeing this movie. Most magicians hate seeing magic revealled, so I'm curious to see how they do it in this film.

Reel Fanatic said...

Let me know what you think about the reveal after you see it, javatari .. It deflated the overall magical fell of this one a little bit for me, but of course it had to be done for the movie to work

Maki said...

The movie was lessened for me by my girlfriend who had figured things out about 45 minutes in and just had to whisper it to me. Without warning, no less. It was still a satisfying experience, though I spent the rest of the movie going, "dammit, she's right! How did I miss that?"

Reel Fanatic said...

If I hadn't already read the book going in, Maki, there's no possible way I would have figured things out before the movie-ending reveal .. she must be a psychic

Chalupa said...

I accidently went to see The Illusionist thinking I was seeing The Prestige. I still need to see this one.

Reel Fanatic said...

I can see how that would be confusing, Chalupa ... Has there ever been another time with two movies about magic in the theaters at once? I can't think of one off the top of my head

marina said...

I've been holding on to the book for weeks and just haven't managed to get to it yet so I'll have to make a point to read it soon but I think I'm going to get to the film first. Good to hear it's a good one. Bale is a great talent and Jackman just recently prooved to me that he can act. I'm excited to see them on screen - together.

Reel Fanatic said...

I would definitely recommend hold off on reading the book until after the movie with this one, Marina .. to do otherwise will take some mystery out of it, which would be a shame