The Prestige

Cover Art and Menu: 8/10
The cover is ok, nothing too spectacular or inviting. The menus, however, are actually quite cool. They used some antique illusions and tinkery little tune to give the menus a certain antique flare.

Extras & Features: 7/10

  • Backstage The Directors Notebook Featurette – A produced extra that’s got some interviews with the director and cast of the movie. This guy, the director, gets his hands dirty for sure. You see him in every scene showing the performers and crew how he wants things done. I think he’s a bit of a control freak, but that’s just my impression.
  • Conjuring The Past Featurette – How do they make a period piece look like a period piece? Costumes and sets of course. They talk like they wanted to make this into some kind of modern old time flick, but why? I’m not sure why anyone thinks period pieces are not exciting, but hey, they are the people with the money. At least The Prestige didn’t end up with bustles and horse drawn carriages with some popular music from today as the soundtrack. Don’t laugh, we all know there have been movies like that in recent years..and it’s nothing to aspire to.
  • Art Gallery’s – Still photos are not that cool really. In fact, they remind me of looking through my old View Master..haha

The Movie: 8/10
I love movies for several reasons, one of which is the ability of certain stories to totally take me out of my moment into a different time and place. Not all films can do that. Not all films need to do that. The ones that do always make a good impression. The Prestige, as you might have guessed, is one of those stories. It’s not a marvel of movie making and it’s not one of those tales that makes me go “wow”.

What it does have, what it did do for me, was to take me completely into the world of two rival “magicians” set in the Victorian age when top hats were in fashion and the industrial revolution was in full swing. What also captivates me is that it’s a story (most of the time) about the people who are drawn to make us all marvel at their amazing feats of wizardry by slight of hand and tricking the ever naïve eye. Magicians. There has always been something interesting to me about Prestidigitators and their need to not only perform, but all that secrecy and cloak and dagger stuff they use to keep their tricks and stunts to themselves. It all seems outdated in the 21st Century, but looking at it through the veil of a period movie, there’s a certain innocence brought back to it that the big Vegas shows and TV stunts by today’s standard of magic just can’t capture.

The Prestige starts by telling us that we are about to see a magic trick. Not in so many words, but it’s there in the opening sequence with Michael Cane’s smooth voice over, which lulls me into some kind of hypnotic stupor I can’t explain.
Come to think of it, isn’t every movie a magic trick? We watch people who aren’t real live in places that are not real doing things that are often impossible. But we somehow let it convince us it’s real, at least for a little while. A magic trick, apparently, consists of three parts. I’ll let the movie tell you what they are, but one of them is the Prestige. Clever. We are drawn into a tragic story where one of our leading men is in prison, about to face his death sentence. From there the time shifts and it’s flash back to the rescue. I don’t always like flash back movies, or ones that start with the dark end of the tale and then back track to tell us how we got to this point. I was a bit disappointed at first when I realized what kind of structure the movie was going to have, but that quickly went away when I saw Batman and The Wolverine were the leading men. Oh, I mean, Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. I’m a fan of both these gentlemen so I got over my small distaste for flash back stories and got on with the business at hand, watching this gorgeous movie.
On one end of the story there’s the first man who’s obsessed with being the better magician, mastering the ultimate illusion, keeping the art of deception alive at any cost. On the other end of the story there’s the second man who is obsessed with the secrets of the first man. Along the way they both find love, they cross paths with questionable characters, have some tragedies and hardships, and haunt one another as if they were destined to make each other miserable.

Bale’s character is less polished, more mysterious. Jackman plays a magician who’s got the shine, but he’s more transparent. He wants to be the best, show up his competition, win the battle of the performances, and he doesn’t try to hide his ambition. It makes him seem more desperate, less interesting, less capable of being the one to pull off the greatest illusion ever created, but then this is a movie that may be able to hide it’s twists and turns with the twitch of hand and turn of a wrist.

Bale plays The Professor, who designs a trick so impressive it captures all of London’s imagination. His secret is sacred, and even in prison, he guards it with great care keeping his rival The Great Danton at a comfortable distance. Both men read one another’s diaries at different points through the story. This is a theme in the movie. Each man has the other’s written accounts of daily life, as well as some secrets to their magic shows. Along with the flash backs this keeps the movie moving at an interesting pace. It never gives us time to stop and wonder or question anything because it seems the movie makers wanted to keep it lively and dynamic to debunk the old idea that a period piece has to be slow and stuffy. It’s never slow and never stuffy, at all.

The movie looks great. The costumes are the standard Victorian fare, nothing special. The city is dark, dingy, dirty, and a little bit scary which keeps the tone of the movie low. It never has an upbeat or gives way to some shiny day when everyone is happy and well adjusted. This is a movie of obsession and disappointment and heart ache, so you won’t find anyone with sunshine beaming down on their smiling faces. I like a dark tale of want and desire when the wanted desired thing isn’t something boring like a man or woman, but something more illusive, real magic.

Value: 7/10
I would say this is a DVD to own. If you can find it for around $15 or so online, go for it. Otherwise wait a while and it will come down in price. The extras aren’t great, but the movie is one I would watch again and then again, and then again when I show it to someone else who might enjoy it.

Overall Score 8/10