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  Publicity Stills of "The Prestige"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: Thriller
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, David Bowie, Scarlett Johansson, Piper Perabo, Andy Serkis, Ezra Buzzington
RunTime: -
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 19 October 2006


Synopsis :

From acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) comes a mysterious story of two magicians whose intense rivalry leads them on a life-long battle for supremacy full of obsession, deceit and jealousy with dangerous and deadly consequences. From the time that they first meet as young magicians on the rise, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are competitors. However, their friendly competition evolves into a bitter rivalry, making them fierce enemies for life and consequently jeopardizing the lives of everyone around them. Full of twists and turns, The Prestige is set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century London.

Movie Review:

Secrets are dangerous things. While it may satisfy your big fat ego to know a certain secret, you also very well know that this secret comes with a price. And you’d never know how much you’d have to pay, until it is too late.

But the human desire will not stop us from wanting to know those deep dark secrets. For the more determined ones, they would stop at nothing to get what they want.

You see, it is all about prestige and ego, and this dark picture is painted very well in the latest work directed by Christopher Nolan.

The man who was Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) and the man who protected Gotham City from evil (Christian Bale) are now two powerful magicians in old-time London, rivaling each other in the world of magic and illusions. In the midst of digging up secrets and trying to outdo each other; obsessions, deceits and murders surface, revealing the dark side of human nature.

Forget about those happy images you have of magicians pulling out cute bunnies of their silly top hats.

Trust Nolan, the director behind the intelligent Memento (2000), the haunting Insomnia (2002), and the recent Batman Begins (2005) to helm this movie adapted from a 1995 novel by Christopher Priest.

The title refers to the third stage of the three-part structure (The Pledge, The Turn and The Prestige) of every magic act, where the “magic” of the act is revealed.

Nolan’s flair for creating a moody and sullen atmosphere is evident in his latest work. The 130-minute movie feels heavy, and it is definitely not a cheerful one to lighten up your day. Scenes are morosely shot, and there is a lingering broodiness throughout its two-odd-hour runtime without it feeling like a drag.

The powerhouse cast should also be credited for their intense performances. Jackman may get the showier role, but it is Bale’s character as a restrained magician who is conflicted between his craft and his personal life that gets our vote.

Rounding up the all-star cast are other familiar faces that do not disappoint. The well-endowed Scarlett Johansson plays the understated role of an assistant torn between the two men. Oscar winner Michael Caine plays his character of a mentor with absolute ease. Filling other roles are Andy Serkins who sheds off his computer-generated image, and singer David Bowie who sheds off his over-the-top persona.

With a reliable cast in place, the other important element to make this a good movie is the story. And thanks to Nolan and his brother Jonathan who co-wrote the screenplay, the movie unfolds steadily into an intriguingly thought-provoking tale of human nature.

You’ll marvel at how the Nolan brothers tell the story, employing skilful flashback techniques that jump to and fro in time. Considering that it is a 1995 novel adaptation which is set in the Victorian era, the relevance to our everyday lives is timeless.

Do not worry that you’d be lost in the complicated storyline, because a Hollywood production will make sure that would not happen by the end of the movie. And despite the need to pay attention and devote energy throughout, you’d find the payoff worth your while.

When Jackman’s character explains how magic gives us this meager hope that miracles may still exist, and how there is a part of us which want to open our eyes wide in wonderment at every trick and illusion, something struck us.

The movie may market itself as a star-studded murder thriller, but at the heart of this potential blockbuster, there is a dark and depressing message about our sad little lives in this cynical world.

Movie Rating:

(It takes a capable director and a reliable cast to bring this novel adaptation to affecting effect – and this is definitely a job well done)

Review by John Li


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