Director: Christopher Nolan
In 2006, there were two movies centering on magicians released to the theatergoing public—both Oscar nominated works were set in the past and featured big named stars, a beautiful leading lady, and a complicated mystery. After the critical success of The Illusionist, it seemed like Christopher Nolan had the thankless task of going second with his magical mystery, The Prestige. However, while thematically similar, the two films vary greatly in the manner in which they are told. Like his prior masterworks Following and Memento, The Prestige (adapted from a novel by Christopher and brother Jonathan), is a much darker tale that seems to be assembled like some elaborate puzzle going backwards and forwards in chronology and introducing clues and red herrings around every turn. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are excellent as feuding magicians in turn of the century England who become bitter rivals after a tragic incident leaves one a widower. Their rivalry begins swiftly and abruptly but soon spirals out of control with more dangerous acts of sabotage and daring stunts as career ego takes the place of their original feud and both grow increasingly obsessed with outdoing the other. However, as Nolan fans are aware—nothing is as it seems and although one magician is locked away for murder at the start of the film, we know that “the prestige” or final act has yet to appear. Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie and Michael Caine costar in the film but it is Nolan’s show the entire way. By the time the final prestige (and there are many startling “turns” throughout) occurs at the very end, you’ll immediately want to watch the entire movie a second time. I must say that I still love the classically beautiful, old-fashioned Illusionist on a purely aesthetic level but for the writer in me, there is no greater thrill than being stumped by a master and Nolan succeeds admirably with The Prestige. Note: It is confusing—The Prestige is one of those films that plays so much better on DVD and to more than one viewer as you’ll want someone to bounce ideas off of during the movie.