Are you watching carefully? The answer is no. Every magician knows that the audience never watches closely enough to see how the ordinary turns into the extraordinary or the disappeared reappears. No one ever watches that closely, unless of course, they espire to be London’s premier performer.
Such is the context for the insidious competition of director Christopher Nolan’s latest film, The Prestige. The rivalry between competing magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) begins when they are first partners in the same act, but their lives take a twisted path after that and are spent in an embittered pursuit to discover each other’s secrets. In a profession based on deceit and when magic means “getting your hands dirty,” both men are obsessed with fame, seeing the fickleness in his rival’s passions but not his own. These obsessions lead to the fracturing of lives as the men become addicted to hearing the applause of prestige that is demonstrably louder than each subsequent performance. Due to this, Angier delves into magic tricks that become too powerful for him to control and Borden sacrifices his family life for his obsession.
According to The Prestige, presentation of the trick is everything, and stripping magic of stylization leaves nothing impressive, but the set of the movie would beg to differ. It gives off an eerie wonderment with its dark tones and dreariness; yet this simple muteness in color is startlingly effective in creating mood. It emphasizes the tweeds, wools and top hats that were present in turn of the century London, mixing the real with the unreal. Magic doesn’t rule the entire world, but where it does fit into the world, it is quite a powerful force.
The cast is diverse. Hugh Jackman plays Angier, Christian Bale is Borden and Michael Caine acts as Angier’s theatrical manager. Also starred is David Bowie as the inventor and electrical wizard, Nikola Tesla, as well as Scarlet Johansson and Piper Perabo.