Film: The Prestige

Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.”

I’ve always been a fan of magic. I still remember going to this one magic show when I was a kid, maybe 5 or 6 at the time. I went with my best friend and her mom, and to say we were excited was an understatement. Now I wasn’t one of those kids who put on magic shows for their friends and family, I was the type of person that loved to watch the illusion and be confounded by my amazement of a trick. Than again maybe that’s one of the reasons why I’m pursuing science, there’s all the wonder and amazement that comes from watching a good illusion but you get the added benefit of knowing it isn’t a trick. The experiments are real, the illusion exists in reality.

The Prestige is a 2006 film, yes magic does play a role in the film however it is primarily about the rivalry between 2 magicians and their quest to become the top illusionist. The Prestige was directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as rival magicians Robert Angier and Alfred Borden respectively. The film also stars Michael Caine as Cutter, a stage engineer.

I re-watched this movie this past weekend on a rainy Friday evening and I was instantly reminded why I’m such a fan of Christopher Nolan’s work. The storytelling is just brilliant, the comparison between Angier the aristocratic magician and Borden the working class magician is superb. As a viewer you are consistently reminded about the differences between the two magicians but it is subtle enough to give depth and not force the film into a ‘rich vs poor’ story. What is interesting is how similar the two magicians are, they both face terrible losses and commit a plethora of back-and-forth crimes against one another in the name of their craft. The lengths these two men  will go through to become the superior magician both astounding and terrifying.

The casting is perfect in this film. Hugh Jackson has showmanship to spare and does a fantastic job playing the role of the theatrical yet torn Angier. The juxtaposition between a man willing to go to such great lengths in the name of his craft and a man who just craves the spotlight is a thought provoking one. I’m sure a psych student would have a field day trying to analyze his actions! Not to be outdone, Christian Bale is spot on as Borden. A man who is willing to give up so much, yet struggles to hold onto what is nearest and dearest. Lastly we can’t forget Michael Caine who rounds out the  casting playing a stage engineer who wants to do what is right and is a scene-stealer to boot.

If you have any interest in magic, the human mind or to what extremes a rivalry can go I would highly suggest watching this film.

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