Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's a Sony.

I was really intrigued with the premise of The Prestige ever since I first saw the trailer almost a month ago. The story between dueling magicians at the turn of the century England is doubly fascinating not only because I rarely turn down the opportunity to watch a good period film but also the promise of the story elevating the fight into supernatural levels is fascinating. I thought that probably one of them finally sold his soul to the dark side so he could trump the other. The truth of the matter after watching this movie is closer to this and just as dark as what I thought it would be. The story is laid out in flashbacks, interspersed with scenes from the present, slowly unfolding everything like how a magician does his trick until the end when the deception is revealed: Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) were good friends at the start, a slight competition between the two could be felt, being apprentices of a stage magician. Cutter (Michael Caine) is their trainer and agent who looks after them, although he sees a greater potential in Angier owing to his being teachable compared to Borden who can sometimes be a bit bull-headed. Then tragedy struck, Angier's wife Julia (Piper Perabo) drowned in an accident when during one of the tricks on stage goes awry (if they only knew how to perform CPR at that time). Angier blamed Borden for her death since it was Borden who deviated from the usual knot used during the performance, thereby that preventing her from activating a trick lock that would have allowed her to escape.

Both of them go their separate ways, but no matter what they do they couldn't seem to get their pride out of the way. They each spied on the performances of the other wanting to see how they could top the tricks of the other. In this game of one-upmanship, Angier was doing well on his own, better, in fact, than Borden did. With Cutter's help he was able to book shows and pack theaters with a few tricks of his own, most of them were his mentor's idea but the thing that always bothered Angier was the fact that his former friend managed to settle down and raise a family, something he felt was stolen from him by rival. When Borden eventually managed to come up with something new and unheard of, "The Transported Man." The trick involves two huge boxes on either side of the stage, Borden would bounce a small rubber ball, go in one box and catch the ball by coming out the other box in a matter of seconds. This catches Angier's ire and demands that they duplicate the same trick. Cutter tells him that there is no other way to do it other than a double, which his new assistant, Olivia Wenscombe (Scarlett Johansson) procured for him. This was totally unacceptable to Borden and once again humiliated Angier which resulted in him being permanently crippled. Angier travels to Colorado to meet with inventor Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) and his assistant, Alley (Andy Serkis) after Borden clues him on Tesla's work on electricity as the secret behind his performance. This was, of course, revealed only after Borden received a grave threat from Angier. When Angier returns from his trip the war between the two dives deeper as the each one's obsession for revenge got darker and not one of them will ever stop until the other and those they hold dear are destroyed.

Fresh from another magic and mystery box-themed movie that was also located in England, Ms. Johanssen and Mr. Jackman (who plays another aristocratic character) turn in exceptional performances under the capable hands of the Nolan brothers. The whole thing was dark. Not "whimsical dark" as in the way Tim Burton does his movies but really dark as in "serious black" (pun intended) . Other than the previously mentioned movie I haven't seen any of Mr. Nolan's previous movies, which I heard were as equally brilliant as this one. The twist in the end was pure genius. As the title of the film suggests that although a trick is involved the solution to it is so simple it's been offered all throughout the course of the movie without the audience realizing it. What's also fascinating about the whole thing is that despite the presence of big stars in this movie, Director Christopher Nolan manages to tone their presence down and make it work in a way that you'd only see the characters and not the actors (with the slight exception of Mr. Bowie whom I couldn't see in the beginning as Tesla). That said I'd like to commend Mr. Jackman for coming up with the most exceptional performance yet I've seen from him. It's not so much his role as an obsessed magician but rather his role as the drunk double. He's got me doubting it was he playing the other character even though you know without a doubt that indeed it is him. There's not much else to say about this movie without revealing too much about the plot (check out a more detailed review from "Hollywood Jesus" in the small link below), suffice to say go watch this on the big screen and watch it again to figure out the obvious clues you've missed the first time around.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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