Wayback Wednesday: The Prestige (2006)

Neither of them pulled a bunny out of a hat and I’m low-key salty about it.

Do you know what we as a society don’t talk about enough? How during one year of the early 2000s movies about stage magicians dominated the big screen. Scoop (2006), The Illusionist (2006), and The Prestige (2006) all came out within four months of each other, seemingly trying to satisfy the movie-going audience’s apparent craving for magician-centric movies. While I can’t speak too much about those first two movies, it’s almost impossible to get me to shut up about The Prestige. This is a movie that my family and I watched a lot when I was younger and would you believe that it wasn’t until this viewing that I finally fully understood what was going on? Yep. It only took me a solid 15 years. Good job, Luke.

Credit: imdb.com / Buena Vista Pictures Distribution / Warner Bros. Pictures

Based on Christopher Priest’s novel of the same name, The Prestige tells the story of Robert Angier and Alfred Borden, two rival stage magicians in Victorian London. Once partners, a fatal accident sets the two men against each other and sets in motion a ruthless competition to pull off the best illusion. A competition that each will do whatever it takes to win.

I love Inception (2010) and it’s undoubtedly a stunning movie, but I think next to The Dark Knight (2008) – check out my review, here – this is my favourite Christopher Nolan movie. I’m sorry, but my love for Batman trumps everything. When the subject of the acclaimed director comes up, I feel like not enough people mention The Prestige which is a crime. This hidden gem of a mystery-drama is fantastic. If you’re not a fan of non-linear storytelling I could see how the flow of The Prestige may intimidate viewers to not give it a second chance. Like a lot of Nolan’s movies, the story begins and within 10 minutes jumps back and forth between the past, present, and future in the blink of an eye. While this type of filmmaking may infuriate some, it only adds to the brilliance and mystique of an intricately-woven story like The Prestige. Nolan is like a magician himself the way he lays out the story and offers small clues to the audience on how to decipher how he pulls the whole thing off. Like a good magic trick, you’re going have to pay attention to understand what’s going on. Even then you’re probably going to be confused and mystified at some point. But I can promise that you’ll be thoroughly entertained from start to finish nonetheless.

It’s movies like The Prestige that show why Nolan is a true magician in the craft of filmmaking. Truly, this is an enchanting movie to watch. Each scene is shot with expert precision and the production design is astounding. Seriously, there are some low-key hauntingly breathtaking visuals in this movie. As striking as the visuals are, hands down the best part about The Prestige is the exceptional writing. It’s almost as magical as its source material. Mysterious and bewitching, The Prestige casts a spell that will compel you to keep watching. The story twists and turns so much that you’ll never know which way it’s going to shift next. But you will be spellbound trying to figure out how this captivating story is going to end. In fact, The Prestige is one of those movies that you kind of don’t want to end. When it does end, you’re going to immediately want to watch it again so that you can watch it back and go, “OHHH SO THAT’S WHAT THAT MEANS! That small detail I thought meant nothing makes total sense now!” An intoxicating blend of mystery, thriller, horror, and drama, The Prestige is a show-stopping movie that will have you questioning if anything you see is truly real.

The cast of The Prestige is small but mighty. I mean, Hell yes to an extended cameo from David freaking Bowie as Nikola Tesla! Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Scarlett Johansson all give fantastic performances in this movie. Sidenote, did you know that Johansson was only 21 when she filmed The Prestige? Damn, what an impressive movie to be part of at such a young age! Johansson and the rest of the cast approach their roles with a complete understanding of who their characters are and thoroughly sell you on the fantasy of the movie. Jackman and Bale are especially epic to watch. The passion and fire they bring to Angier and Borden’s rivalry is palpable and at any given moment you’ll flip flop between which magician you want to see triumph. 

Angier was such a great role for Jackman. At a time when he was known mostly as Wolverine to mainstream audiences, The Prestige was an excellent opportunity to showcase his range as an actor. He pulls off Angier’s obsession with chilling conviction and it’s a fascinating turn of character that shows how much rivalry and bitterness can consume and destroy people. I suppose that’s the overall theme of the story isn’t it? Obsession. Their obsession with magic, their obsession with their wives, even their obsession with trying to top each other. Jackman is a versatile actor and his mesmerizing multifaceted performance in The Prestige isn’t given enough credit. 

The Prestige is phenomenal. If you’re looking to be bewitched, bewildered, and bamboozled, then this is a movie you absolutely need to check out. Trust me on this one. Nothing you see is an illusion. This top-notch, quality movie is all real. Now, if we can just get a spin-off about Bowie’s Nikola Tesla (played by Tilda Swinton) my life will be complete.

Have you seen The Prestige? What are your favourite Christopher Nolan movies?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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