by Ken B.
I wish I could tell you all about the ins and outs of the plot of The Prestige, but I won’t for two reasons: 1) I want you to experience this for yourself, and 2) There is so much here to explain that we would be here all day.
Instead I will simply point out that The Prestige is brilliant, engaging, and multilayered to a wondrous extent. While the story to tell is sometimes condensed to the 130 minute runtime to the point of being a bit muddled, and the ending verges on the ridiculous, enough excellent work is on display here to make this a highly recommendable and likable thriller.
Set at the turn of the century, we are introduced to Robert Angier (HUGH JACKMAN) and Alfred Borden (CHRISTIAN BALE), two stooges for Milton the Magician (RICKY JAY). They are employed to sit in at every show, and be the “volunteers” picked for a particular illusion, which involves tying up one of Milton’s assistants and throwing her in a tank of water. Once onstage, they tie the ropes in such a way that they are easily escapable. One night, something goes wrong, and she drowns in the tank of water, unable to free herself from the ropes. It is known that Borden was talking about tying the ropes in a different way.
After this incident, Angier despises Borden. They leave Milton and become rival magicians in their own right. Angier repeatedly works with stage manager John Cutter (MICHAEL CAINE). What follows is a story full of supreme magician one-upsmanship, each observing (and Borden occasionally sabotaging) their opponent’s shows.
It’s all very fascinating, as the screenplay, based on a novel by Christopher Priest, twists and turns, keeping a fair deal of intrigue throughout the picture. Yes, twists and turns. Make no mistake, the last half hour of The Prestige is loaded with plot twists, as the movie that begins in a nonlinear style slowly comes together and you understand the significance of the images shown at the start. Acting-wise, we’ve come to expect no less than the best from names like Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Michael Caine. They certainly deliver here, with full fleshed and deep deliveries. Also good is Scarlet Johansson as Angier’s partner (domestic & professional), a character who becomes more complex than first thought.
Visually, this movie is magnificent. Wally Pfister is a truly gifted cinematographer, and each shot is filled and framed deliberately and solidly. The production and costume design is appealing and atmospheric. The effects are spectacular, particularly displays of the big bright creations of Nikola Tesla (DAVID BOWIE, in a good dramatic showing), his namesake coils in all of their bright, zapping, AC glory, employed for use by Angier during a climactic illusion.
I did, however, have one fairly-sized problem with The Prestige, and that is how what could have been one of the greatest third acts of recent memory has its brilliance riddled with rushed, muddy points and an ending with a few too many cop out qualities. I wish I could be more specific, but then the spoilers would flow freely, and the few readers that haven’t already fallen asleep from boredom would write irate comments. Suffice it to say a neater and more precise manner would have helped my view immensely.
Still, there is far too much greatness otherwise to let that gripe lessen the overall point of this review: The Prestige is a major studio film of high intelligence, with classic direction from Christopher Nolan, a mostly well crafted script, and finely tuned performances from all major players.
by Ken B.
DISCLAIMER: Because I have similar political/environmental views to the ones presented here, this review may be a little bit biased (I tried to remain neutral as much as possible). I imagine all reviews of this movie (or those like it) are a little bit biased one way or the other.
“I’m Al Gore, I used to be the next President of the United States of America” is the statement Al Gore uses to begin his presentation of a global warming awareness slideshow, which he says he’s given over a thousand times. An Inconvenient Truth is an excellent documentary, and its truly quite frightening in the way it presents its facts, and the inevitable conclusions. But the fact Al Gore presents this is the film’s blessing and curse. Gore is a natural speaker, and is an appealing host. However, some political folk who don’t care much for Gore or trying to be convinced over global warming’s existence (for the few who don’t know, these are typically the same people both times) may turn away from the film completely.
That’s really a shame.
Why? The sheer importance I’ve always felt about taking a stand against the track we’ve made about global warming is very high, and this movie shares that view. That however, I must stress, is not the only reason I like this movie. This is top documentary filmmaking here. It has a point, sets out to do it, and gives evidence as to why it assumes that point. An Inconvenient Truth is directed by Davis Guggenheim, who would go on to direct Waiting for Superman (Rating: 2.5 Stars). Guggenheim is capable of making very professional and glossy products, so it’s appealing to the eye.
Most of the documentary’s 96 minute runtime is devoted to the slideshow presentation which Gore has presented around the world, relaying the extremely dangerous path that we, as a global society, have taken to harm the earth. There is no debate over the extent of this issue in the scientific industry. There were no major dissents to how scientists presented reports on the subject to one another over the past several years. How one chooses to take this information, however, leads to a debate in the general public.
Occasionally, An Inconvenient Truth will step away from the main feature and diverge into an Al Gore story, one of them being the 2000 election, of course. These, while occasionally interesting, can really drag out the movie. Sometimes, it even felt like an afterthought.
Truth be told, everyone who’s wanted to see this movie probably already has, and that “wanted to see” should be everyone. Whether you go in to realize the full extent of the damage global warming has caused and will cause, or you wish to go in as a skeptic to the issue, there is something in this premise that draws most in. If, however, you are not in any way interested in this issue or taking a position, I must assume one of two things. One, you’re not a political person. As the Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore once said (I don’t know exactly where and when, though), “When someone says, ‘I’m not political,’ I feel like what they’re saying is ‘I only care about myself. In my bathtub. Me and my bathtub is what I care about.’” I feel that is true, and I thought I was the only person that did. Or maybe, two, you just don’t care about global warming. You’re kind of in the same place, aren’t you?