The Prestige

The Prestige ★★★½

Check out The Prestige on Episode #7 of the We Watched This Movie Podcast 🎙 


“You're familiar with the phrase "man's reach exceeds his grasp"? It's a lie: man's grasp exceeds his nerve.” 🎩

What might audiences find when peeking behind the curtain on this vaudeville act? A tense period piece, maybe a transcontinental thriller or perhaps a meditation on movie magic? This dense turn-of-the-century tale is all of those and more, proving Christopher Nolan to be a Hollywood heavy-hitter way back in 2006, and captivating audiences with its spell-binding and complex method for nearly two decades. Assembling his A-team of now-celebrated collaborators for this study on stage sleight-of-hand, such as cinematographer Wally Pfister and production designer Nathan Crowley, the British director is in true command of his craft for the film's somewhat-bloated 130 minutes, at times confounding and confusing viewers due in no small part to its marquee misdirection and sluggish pace. Leading lads Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale steal the show in dual roles as duelling magicians across three acts, daring audiences to sympathise with each protagonist as they pursue Faustian-like pacts with deadly consequences. Michael Caine and David Bowie are deserving of much praise, but sadly Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson find their talents wasted in under-written roles, did someone say dead wife trope? One-upmanship, pride and obsession are the name of the game during the pledge, turn and eponymous prestige, but the film flounders as it covers far too much thematic territory for its own good, and refuses to settle for any singular focus. Peeling back its layers reveals a fractal filmmaking style, trademark elliptical editing and marvellous use of mise en abyme, all of which would be improved in later Nolan features, yet this experience does demand your attention and encourage repeat viewings where keen eyes hope to spot every trick. Abracadabra.

7/10 black cats and top hats.

Marshall liked this review