Christopher Nolan’s 2006 film “The Prestige,” starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, isn’t just one of his best works, it is a fantastic film in the realm of cinema.
The film covers a thrilling feud between two magicians in late 19th century England who constantly try to one-up each other in their performances.
There are a multitude of reasons why this film is successful, but the most vital of these are the incredible story, the brilliant writing and exquisite performances.
Starting with the story, this film is adapted from the 1995 novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. Like many of Nolan’s other films, “The Prestige” has a complex plot, yet tells a thematically-rich story. Themes of obsession, rivalry and sacrifice are key to the film and manifest themselves in many surprising ways throughout the picture. The twists and turns of the story not only make it more enthralling, but deepen its thematic importance, ultimately telling a story that details multiple possibly disconcerting facets of human nature.
“The twists and turns of the story not only make it more enthralling, but deepen its thematic importance, ultimately telling a story that details multiple possibly disconcerting facets of human nature.”
This leads us right into the writing of the film, which is absolutely exquisite. Nolan is an expert at crafting a complex story through utilizing set up and payoff in narratives. He did this in “The Dark Knight,” “Inception” and “Interstellar,” and he does the same in “The Prestige.” This makes the films even more impressive on the second watch, as you realize all the hints and clues toward the conclusion present in the first act. This is very much the case with “The Prestige,” a film that is almost required to be rewatched after first viewing to capture it in its entirety. The dialogue is absolutely fantastic, with countless lines and sequences that will be emblazoned in your mind after watching.
Another reason why this film works is because of the performances from the lead actors. Both Jackman and Bale are fantastic actors who have had success in the film industry for multiple decades because of their acting prowess. They, yet again, do a brilliant job, portraying two very different – yet in truth quite similar – characters. Jackman’s “The Great Danton” is very theatrical while Bale’s “The Professor” is quiet and subdued, letting his tricks do the talking. Both actors execute these characters brilliantly, even as they evolve in interesting ways as the picture progresses.
In terms of flaws, this film has very few. The only thing I would consider slightly altering is the overall plot structure. The film employs a non-linear structure that provides some benefits throughout. However, I feel the narrative would have been better delivered if it was told linearly, as I feel the pacing and story were not drastically improved by being non-linear. If it was sequentially structured, I feel the story could have been slightly better executed. Nonetheless, this is a minor change as the core story doesn’t change that significantly.
In conclusion, “The Prestige” is one of Nolan’s best pictures due to its incredible story, exquisite writing and strong lead performances. For those reasons, it can most definitely be considered a fantastic film.
Where to find “The Prestige”: Streaming on Prime Video