Casual Rambling
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Casual Rambling

Movie Review: The Prestige

Rating: 4 Stars

from Netflix

The Prestige came out in 2006 when I was 10 years old. Apologies to myself for dating myself. I watched the film two years later and it has stuck with me since despite never watching it again. Until now.

from IMDB

When I eventually compile my favorite/greatest films of all time, don’t be surprised when you see The Prestige on that list. I love this movie. There are many stories penned about love, but the twisted disastrous deranged tragedies bring me much more delight and awe than say, The Notebook.

I watched The Notebook around the same time and it was not surprisingly in my wheelhouse as a young teen. I could appreciate The Notebook much more now critically than I did when one of my favorite movies was The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler. I digress.

The point of the matter is, any work of art that can stay with you over time, and can uphold the test of time, is a phenomenal achievement. The Prestige undoubtedly upholds and shines over a decade after its release and is as jarring to me as the first time I watched it.

What always stuck with me was the concluding confrontation between the two magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). I inherently root for Borden, but there’s really little reason to cheer for him. It’s so odd to have a movie where you feel like neither protagonist has the higher moral ground to stand on.

Angier and Borden are each other’s yin and yang. Angier is a great showman, Borden is a purist. Both are great magicians, but Angier has the mass appeal, and it’s all he truly cares about. The adulation and applause after presenting a great magic trick.

Borden is a more Sherlock Holmes-like character who is more invested in himself, his daughter, and Angier. Borden is a hard character to pin down. His motivations, his aspirations, his desires, all are seemingly fleeting. We know he cares about the secrets behind his magic, but his feelings of love are messy. We understand why his personal life is so messy by the end.

Angier is quite obvious with his intent. He wants to produce the greatest trick in the history of magic. Angier believes Borden has figured it out. The trick is called, The Transported Man, and the mystery behind the trick delivers the utmost suspense of the film.

The film begins with the venerable Michael Caine as Cutter. Cutter explains the three steps of magic to a young girl. The pledge, the turn, and the prestige. You show someone something ordinary, you make it disappear, and you end by making that object come back. Simple enough.

We then flash to a scene where Borden witnesses Angier’s death while performing The Transported Man. Angier is under a giant Tesla coil shooting lightning that makes him disappear. Angier falls through a trap door into a locked water tank. Borden is mystified and Cutter believes Borden’s intention was to murder Angier.

We see a convicted Borden in prison, sentenced to hanging, where he is given Angier’s notebook. Borden reads through the diary, and we witness Angier and Borden as young men working together for a magician. A rift between the two is caused when Borden ties a knot too tight on the female performer who also happens to be Angier’s wife. Angier interrogates Borden as to what knot he tied, and Borden claims to not know. Borden and Angier split ways, but never stray far from one another, keeping track of each other’s progress as startup magicians. Angier sticks with Cutter as his show producer, while Borden works with a quiet man named Fallon.

Angier and Borden go to war. What is described as a rivalry is really a love story. One that demonizes our two protagonists to the point where they want to ruin each other. The Prestige speaks a lot on hurting the ones you love the most. Borden and Angier know that only they have the love and passion for magic to such an unhealthy extent, they are tied together for eternity. What breaks both Borden and Angier’s bond is when the other has taken someone from them. Borden took the life of Angier’s wife. Angier responded by framing Borden and taking him away from his daughter.

The original Transported Man was developed by Borden, and Angier became obsessed with it until the point he found a way to make it better… for the worse.

The film is riveting in every scene. You watch each scene like a detective trying to decipher the clues, some obvious, some subtle.

The ending is an all-timer. The true mystery of Borden’s Transported Man was hiding in plain sight the entire time, as magic often is. I found myself caught up in the possible explanations of Borden’s trick.

I’ve yet to find a Christopher Nolan film that I don’t mightily enjoy. The only Nolan films I am missing from my catalog are Following, Insomnia, and his most recent picture Dunkirk. I assume that means a Nolan list will soon be following my all-time movie list. There’s likely another Nolan entry worthy of my all-time list.

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J. King

J. King

Not your average Medium rambler

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