on 31 January 2007
This is a wonderful movie. Poignant, tragic, charming, enigmatic; and ideally-suited for a mature, attentive, intellient audience with a love of mystery.
The story follows two 19th century stage magicians in a tale of rivalry, obsession, and love. The film envokes strong feelings, some of these feelings are very hard to define, given the unusual and ambiguous circumstances of the characters; so there are definitely 'new' experiences to be had from watching this film.
There's also a very satisfying 'twist' along the way, which I don't think most people will see coming, and reminds me of an M. Night Shyamalan film in that respect.
The story is told in a non-sequential manner, with lots of "flash-forwards" to the future. This confused me at first, but it soon became obvious that there were three separate timeframes being shown out of sequence, and then once I'd "got" it, I was engrossed in the story. I am already looking forward to watching it again.
One thing is for certain: you will be talking about this film after watching it!
on 29 April 2007
"The Prestige", based on a novel by Christopher Priest, is a movie that surprised me. I had heard that some people liked it, and that some people hated it, but I didn't expect "The Prestige" to be the kind of film that makes you want to watch it again immediately, just to be certain you didn't miss anything. And that is exactly what happened in this case...
This film, directed by Christopher Nolan, is a drama set in late 19th century London that has some ingredients that can only be described as fantasy. All the same, the spectator won't be able to shake off the feeling that what he is watching is real, due to the excellent way in which the actors, the director and the scriptwriters managed to bring Priest's novel to life.
The title of this movie has to do with one of the three acts of which every outstanding magic trick consists. The first act is "The Pledge", when the magician shows you something seemingly ordinary. The second act is "The Turn", when the thing that seemed ordinary is turned into something extraordinary. The last act is "The Prestige", the act that crowns the magic trick and makes it unique. Magicians live and die for "The Prestige", and that act is somehow at the center of this story.
The main characters in this film are two magicians, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman), that due to a tragedy go from friendly rivals to fierce enemies. The quest of each one of them is to best the other, no matter the cost, notwithstanding the means. Who is the best magician, who can really achieve "The Prestige"? And will he live to boast about it?
On the whole, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie, and that I would gladly watch it a third time. Highly recommended...
on 4 January 2007
Just to begin, I'd like to dispute the previous reviewer's assertion that Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) is the hero of the piece, and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) the villain. It is not as strightforward as that, and therein lies one of the film's strengths - both characters are extremely well developed (primarily, of course, thanks to Christopher Priest's superb novel) and finely acted by the leading duo, and events conspire to wrestle our sympathies between the two antagonists. Borden does initially appear to be portrayed as the villain, his careless actions causing a helpless Angier's life to crumble around him (he loses a loved one and his reputation). But as the plot progresses, we see Angier become twisted with obssession and revenge, his motives growing ever more suspect and really rather sinister. Borden, on the other hand, is a largely motiveless character (though certainly no less interesting for it), managing not to let his obsessive quest for the ultimate magic trick lead him to immoral behaviour.
Bale and Jackman are both on top form, and the supporting cast is strong (Scarlett Johansson struggles a little, apparently concentrating too hard on her English accent and forgetting to make us care about her character; Michael Caine is, as usual, faultless).
This is Nolan's best film since Memento. It doesn't quite pip his 2000 thriller, but it comes close. A lot of people will see the twist coming, and a few will think it is obvious... but in a way, that's the point. Like a magic trick, you're looking for some higher secret, but you're fooled only by its simplicity. And here's a simple fact: Chris Nolan is Britain's best director, and among the best in the business today.
on 28 November 2006
This is a fantastic film and keeps you transfixed for the whole time. at the end you want to go back and see it again to fill in the subtle twists and hints to the puzzle. Acting great, watch it but be prepared to use your brain in working things out. The end gives you the answer but leaves you trying to work it all out!
A must-see film!!
on 20 November 2006
this is one of the best films I have ever seen, and certainly the best film of 2006. The acting is exemplary and the story line is superb. Just when you think you've worked out the twist and are sitting smugly waiting to be proved right, the story moves beyond this easy ending to a final twist you'll never see coming unless you've been really watching carefully. There's no surprises it's all in the film but what a punch it packs. If you only see one film see this one
on 23 June 2007
This movie has certainly captured the art of magic, its complexities and wonder. As two friends' different philosophies on magic set tensions in motion, it is a tragic death that forever puts a wedge between them. A rivalry ensues between the more penetrating Borden (Bale) and the showman Angiers (Jackman). With three different time lines moving all at once through most of the movie, there's really never a moment's boredom. This storytelling is efficient and compelling. The characters are rich--they really have something to evoke every audience. They have great motive... and that's what the viewers need-- a reason to stay on the journey of the characters. This fact will put you to the edge until the cessation.
What I really liked about the film is that it was presented as such a normal, ordinary plot, just like any other movie in a periodic setting. Furthermore, the director presented the theme-envy, obsession, and deceit, in the coolest way to present these things--subtle! This film exposes one of the best "rivalry" stories I have seen for some time. I'd have to give it a thousand claps and hands up! As always, Bale was perfect. Cane was able to really shine as well, especially when reprimanding Angier. A real surprise for me was Hugh Jackman. I was more than worried for his quality of performance in this movie. Thankfully, there was never any reason to be, however. It wasn't till the very end when perhaps he was just a little too over the top (and he kind of earns it) that I thought. Never for a second was I ever tempted to think of Wolverine or elevators.
"The Prestige" tells nothing about benevolence. Yes, all of the characters are full of deceit and self-preservation. And yes, the director may have over-sensationalized the theme for some (But I think he presented it as subtle as he could). The thing here is that the decisions made by the director works for the advantage of the film. Why would I feel bad if there is not one character who conveyed a positive disposition? The nature of the characters reflects human nature--and as long as a character does that--it is REAL. We should not be looking for a benign protagonist here--besides, that's getting old. Films that project non contrast between good and evil are marvelous in their own rights. They are laying off the archetypes, the formulaic sense that's been going' on in the film industry for the past 10 years, which should be the case now in the 21st century film-making. At least this movie tried, and as far as I know, succeeds.
on 19 August 2012
When two talented magicians Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) enter into a deadly game of rivalry after a trick they are involved goes tragically wrong. When Borden ties a knot during a dangerous water tank trick devised by their ingÃ©nue Cutter (Michael Caine) the man responsible for devising the tricks, when it's consequence leads to the death of Angier's wife Julia (Piper Perabo). Angier then sets out to ruin Borden with vengeance for his Wife's death which Borden may or may not be responsible for, although as the story progresses Angier's obsession to be better than the obviously infinitely more talented Borden becomes the driving factor of his obsession.
As this is Nolan the story does not start at the beginning, the relevance to the open shot of a number of top hats will reveal itself during the film but we start from near to end of the story, Borden is sneaking behind the stage in disguise and discovers Angier drowning in a tank of water, Borden is then charged with murder and thrown in jail awaiting trial, while in jail he receives Angier's diary and the story goes into usual flashback mode for Nolan (see Memento and Batman Begins) and we get to see Angier reading Borden's memoirs and the film flashes forward, Nolan delighting and entering into the labyrinthine plot and confounding and confusing the viewer.
Although this is a period setting Nolan purposely wanted it to feel contemporary not bothered about setting it's time and placing historical sights or period detail, the film surrounding is for much duration misty and out of focus, Nolan points us towards the characters and beckons us to look closer, brilliantly misdirecting us to is big rug pull or pulls if you will when they come.
That is not to say that he doesn't layout clues throughout, not unlike what Singer and Fincher achieve with Usual Suspects and Fight Club, The Prestige will reward further viewings, watching it after subsequent first viewing (and I can imagine unless you haven't the patience for this intricate piece you will most certainly want to). It's not my business or aim to reveal too much as going in with least amount of information will make your first viewing that more rewarding. Although some may cry out claims of cheating but this film shares more with Nolan's breakout second film Memento than the previous 2 big name films this follows.
Nolan optioned Christopher Priests novel around the same time as Memento and alongside brother Jonathan (Jonah) like the superb minding bending Guy Pierce led thriller wrote this together. The Prestige is not quite as ingenious or dazzling as Nolan's acclaimed second feature but it tops both Batman films and easily aces the great but flawed remake Insomnia. Since Memento the team up of Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister has been a more than successful partnership and the results are nonetheless impressive here as said before the characters are primary to telling the story but Pfister alongside Nolan creates a atmospheric canvas for the actors to paint on.
Jackman more famous for delivering more than adequate performances for the usual blockbuster cinema material displays depths here never seen before, it's true he's delved into the character before with Wolverine in the first 2 X-men films but here we are seeing something new from the Australian. The character seems an obvious fit for Jackman when we first meet Angier (a showman full of flamboyance) but as the story progresses he is allowed delve beneath the skin and the tragedy that allows you to side with him at the beginning, this starts to deteriorate as he becomes more obsessed with being the better magician. Michael Caine's Cutter (once again the man seems adept at the mentor role and is on superb form here) says he doesn't want to see it as he's looking for something more elaborate and spectacular, sometimes the answer is the most simple. Angier could very well be a metaphor for the viewer, as no doubt the clever clogs amongst us (outside of those of us who've read the book) might well work some of it out before the reveal but the majority of us and rightly so will be as blinded as Angier.
Bale who of late as become fashionable to question whether or not he's a the talented multi layered actor he was so obviously touted by his fans. He almost definitely given us the best reading of the Caped Crusader to date although is second run in the role not only saw him over shadowed by a dazzling thoroughly deserved best supporting actor win by Heath Ledger as the Joker but both Oldman and Eckhart didn't make it easy despite the fact it's a fine slow burning turn he pulls of in Dark Knight and his integral to the film. Here Bale despite Jackman's performance steals the show, set up at the beginning as the bad guy he turns in a performance which sees us questioning allegiance to Angier although this is also down to Jackman's excellent turn, his character is not saint and by the end of the film you may arguing over who is least worst of the two but is only by the time the hand is revealed by Nolan that it is so much more evident to quality of performance that Bale has delivered here, this is his best since his magnetic turn as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Although Bale about takes first place in the performance stakes, the combination (despite rarely appearing on the screen throughout the duration of the film) of the two actors is essential to pulling off Nolan's trick and they both work beautifully as part of it.
The supporting cast are fine, Caine is a given, Pearbo brief but a fine turn, Rebecca Hall more than capable of encapsulating the sadness of Borden's wife Sarah. The only bum note if you will is the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson as Olivia, who the two magician share as a lover during the film, her Olivia struggles with delivering an English accent and doesn't quite convince but it's a minor blip on an otherwise outstanding achievement by all, Gollum himself Andy Serkis pops up as assistant to David Bowie's Tesla, it depends on your thoughts how you think Duncan Jones Dad handles this role but I feel with his Icy delivery he saves Nolan any accusations of stunt casting.
David Julyan gives another impressive and moody score to complement the proceedings and the closing Tom Yorke track "Analyse" that accompanies the credits is a nice suitable touch to close the film on. Nolan has pulled off an incredibly impressive achievement here and all the pieces fit perfectly to assemble the Jigsaw and as Nolan says the resonating here is most important, I don't want to give anymore away as I feel going in with the least amount of information will only maximise your enjoyment of the intricate cinematic puzzle
on 30 January 2007
Ask yourself if you liked Memento. If yes, carry on reading, if no then skip to the final paragraph. Ask yourself if you liked Insomnia (the Pacino/Wiliams/Swank remake not the Norwegian original). If yes, keep reading, if not skip to the penultimate paragraph. Now did you enjoy Batman Begins if yes... you get the drift.
Christopher Nolan has a signature style. He likes to contort time and space. He enjoys keeping audiences guessing right up until the end. Even, albeit to a lesser extent, in his take on the Batman legend. It would seem that such trickery would go arm in arm with a tale based around two rival Victorian illusionists. And to a degree it does. Though The Prestige does manage to craftily avoid simple pigeonholing, it is a complicated tale requiring effort and patience. That said, not unlike The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense it will be best to avoid the t*sspots who can't keep the twists and turns to themselves before you nestle down with your popcorn and nacho's. There shall be no spoilers here.
What can be discussed is the premise and it follows thusly:
Christian Bale stars as Alfred Borden an ambitious and talented illusionist, performing as The Professor in small non-descript theatres. Technically gifted, Borden lacks any sense of scale, presence or spectacle. Hugh Jackman plays Rupert Angier, the more flamboyant but less skilled magician The Great Danton, who sells out larger auditoriums, yet craves more fame. Both learnt their trades, side by side as assistants (plants) to an older mentor and their rivalry quickly grew from boyish competition to something far more dangerous.
After a spectacular illusion by The Great Danton goes sour, Borden is tried and jailed for the apparent murder of Angier and what follows is a mind bending series of flashbacks, flash forwards and double takes. We've seen this before of course with Memento, but here there is no simple inverse narrative to grasp on to. The jailed Borden acquires Angier's diary and reads with both bemusement and anger his foes thoughts. Within one of these flashbacks it transpires that Angier had previously stolen Borden's own diary in an attempt to best his current trick and we are then launched into a further flashback. And this is all before David Bowie turns up as a mad scientist. Confused? Good.
Take The Prestige at face value and it shouldn't work, but start thinking outside the given box and it manages to perform on many levels. This is a slow burn production, with flashes of violence and science fiction but however stylized the delivery is The Prestige would fail if the characters were not believable. Fortunately Nolan gets the best out of his ensemble. Bale, as the nominal villain, is as solid as ever with his role being the more introverted and impassive foil for Jackman's grandstanding magician who will go to great lengths to be the best. Despite the two sharing very few scenes their rivalry is carefully balanced between awe, appreciation, hatred and jealousy.
It's refreshing that Nolan doesn't spoon feed his audience, instead adopting an approach that, not unlike Michael Caine's opening monologue (The Set Up, The Performance and The Prestige), is as reliant on misdirection as it is on its study of retribution, revenge and obsession.
The Prestige is bound to split audiences between those that grasp the non-linear time structure and those that struggle (or can't be arsed) to put the pieces together themselves. Nolan's framing is deliberately skewed, exterior locations are shrouded in mist and the largely handheld interior scenes are forever roving, forcing you to concentrate. Drawing you in and effectively tricking you.
To borrow from the movies tagline `Are you watching closely?', in order to get the most of Nolan's tricky genre defying web of jealousy and revenge, you'd better be.
The Prestige is an incredible film, I really enjoyed it from start to finish on standard tv and I jumped at the chance to grab it on blu-ray.
If you're looking for a blu-ray film to showcase your collection, this is it. Pristine quality throughout; the sharpness and clarity are outstanding. Quality-wise it would be hard to rate this film anything less than 100%. There's very little noise, as the transfer from source was done so well. Colours are saturated evenly, and the atmosphere is incrediblely maintained.
In terms of audio, this film rings a high-note. Audio is deep and clear, and definitely very very high quality.
The special features are good too, with stunning behind-the-scenes photography and cast-and-crew interviews to keep avid fans happy.
Overall, this is definitely one of the top blu-ray titles at the moment, in terms of story and sheer quality this film is very good indeed.
on 5 February 2007
This is probably the best film I saw in 2006, but if I had been able to see Pan's Labyrinth that year, it would have been relegated to 2nd.
The plot is difficult to summarize, as it's multi-time strand, non-linear nature and reveals makes this difficult. But basically the film follows the rivalry between two magicians during the last years of the 19th Century, and how both obsessively try to learn the secret of each other's mastery of an illusion called 'The Transformed Man'. Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine all give mesmerising performances, and director Christopher Nolan will one day be recognised as a great film director.
It should be noted that Christopher Priest's source novel is also worth checking out, although the story in the novel tends to follow different paths.