Location: Los Angeles, California

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Prestige

Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" is an absolute stunner. What a refreshing relief it is to see that this movie is a genuine puzzler, a spellbinding tour-de-force of trickery, atmosphere, performance, and narrative experimentation.

From the outset, Michael Caine's character explains the three steps to a magic trick. The genius of "The Prestige," and it's a genius we don't realize under the very end, is that its narrative is following these same magician techniques.

The narrative is a wonder. The main story technique revolves around Christian Bale reading Hugh Jackman's journal... and Hugh Jackman's journal is about reading Christian Bale's own journal. The narrative jumps back and forth between the two, and yet, somehow Nolan makes it all work logically. The film's structure works in the same way that "Memento" worked... you go along with it, even if you're uncertain about certain steps in the process. And then the movie floors you.

The performances from Jackman and Bale are top-notch, and Caine is flawless as always. Johansson feels a tad out of place, but she manages (in much the same way Jessica Biel managed in "The Illusionist"). The film looks great; the editing is impeccable; and the surprises are well-earned.

The only hurdle this movie has is that its two protagonists are both cruel men. At the heart of this movie is a rivalry between two magicians that runs so deep that each man will stop at nothing to outdo the other. If you can get over the fact that neither of these characters is an admirable human being, you'll find "The Prestige" to be an enchanting entertainment, as well an unexpectedly disturbing one. It's one of the best films of the year.

Rating: **** (out of ****)
Opens Oct. 20


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