Skip to main content

On DVD: The Prestige

I finally caught up with this film on DVD and it's more than a little frustrating to write about it. Much like The Sixth Sense, the enjoyment with The Prestige lies in not knowing how it's going to end. How do I write about a film when the very thing I most want to write about gives the entire thing away? Trying to write about The Prestige without giving something away is, at best, difficult.

Christopher Nolan continues to impress me, but he has this obsession with non-linear story telling. This sometimes works brilliantly, as in Memento; in Batman Begins, however, it was annoying. Here he strikes a happy middle ground. He achieves here with I think he tried to do in Batman, and now it works. The jumping back and forth in time work to reveal the parallels between main characters and when all of the timelines, as it were, converge, there's a marvelous and honest sense of inevitability.

Where the film fails is having a protagonist you give a hoot about. Between Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, I found myself pulling more for Jackman's character. You may feel different. It feels as though you're supposed to like Bale more because he's more earthy, more working class, but he's such a shallow jerk.


In either case, neither is all that loveable, admirable, or even embraceable. These are two men obsessed with themselves, their own fame and self-aggrandizement. They were friends, now they are enemies, obsessed with stealing secrets from each other and unraveling the performances of the other. Their rivalry will be their mutual undoing.


Herein lies the problem with writing about the film. What is safe to be told? Has enough time passed, as with The Sixth Sense, that we can discuss how this film ends? Probably not, so I will politely, respectfully defer.

What impressed me most about The Prestige is that it is fundamentally honest with its audience. Contrast this with The Illusionist, another magician film that came out about the same time. The Illusionist just lies its butt off. You see tricks that are possible only because you're watching a movie, and routines are pulled off just because the film needs them to be pulled off. The final reveal is a cheat.

The Prestige, on the other hand, shows you how each gag is done. Sometimes the setups stretch credibility, but at least you're seeing an effort toward explanation. This holds true all the way to the very end. Nolan wrote the screenplay with his brother, Jonathan Nolan; they deserve applause (and Jonathan's on board to write Spielberg's Interstellar, which instantly gives that film some credibility).

But at film's end there's the end, and I had figured out the major turn about two-thirds of the way in. Despite that, there was still a surprise up Nolan's sleeve. You may or may not buy it. It worked for me because, again, the film was honest; everything you see is foreshadowed and setup in advance.

If I had given a hoot about either (or both) of the antagonists, the final reveal would have truly been haunting, the stuff of nightmares. Since I didn't, however, I am left appreciating the craft and little else. The final reveal is disturbing, and leaves you with a simple question: Are you the man in the box, or are you the prestige?

Because I didn't care for either character, I just didn't care what the answer was. "Good widdance to bad wubbish," as Elmer Fudd would say.

Rated PG-13, no doubt for disturbing imagery, mild sexual banter, some violence, and little birds crushed in little cages.


Popular posts from this blog

Not the Hero We Deserve, But the Hero We Need

The Dark Knight is the best film I’ve seen in years. Not just the best “superhero” film, but the best film of any type. It’s not perfect, not quite a masterpiece, but it’s flaws are, to me, tiny and overwhelmed by the time the film ends. While relatively bloodless, it is consistently brutal, not just in what it depicts but in the themes that drive it. TDK is a film for adults, please leave the kids at home.Let’s deal with those “flaws” first, the largest being the character Rachel Dawes. In Batman Begins, I blamed Katie Holmes. Her acting was weak, to say the least, which is regrettable in that who she is and what she says and does are important to the film. Critics agreed and either for that or other reasons, Katie was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is a better actress. Yet here she’s weak, real weak. Maybe it’s the character, not the actress, which is frustrating because Rachel is a pivotal character. The film, at almost two and a half hours, might be a shade long. Having said t…

About that "Steven Spielberg ending" comment

All right, when I wrote about the film V for Vendetta, I said the "happy ending" was an ending Steven Spielberg would have been proud of. Is there someone out there who doesn't get it? I can think of precisely one film that Spielberg didn't slap some sort of "and they all lived happily ever after" ending onto, and that was Munich (which sucked in its own right and for other reasons).Most of his films righteously have happy endings. Kill the shark, absolutely. Hero wins the day, without a doubt. Some poor schmuck prevails over homicidal big rig, yea!But as I recall, his first theatrical film didn't have all that happy an ending. Indeed, I think the protaganist gets his ass shot off and dies. Which was proper, since that was based on a real story and that's really what happened.And does Close Encounters of the Third Kind really have a "happy" ending? Our hero goes off with the aliens, and the music swells to happiness, but he's just aban…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I went and saw The Last Jedi shortly after it came out and at first I didn't really feel like writing a thing about it. Why? Because the film just left me apathetic; I just didn't care. But I've been seeing arguments and counter-arguments fly back and forth, especially the aggregate professional critic (very high) versus the aggregate viewer (pretty low) scores. So, what the heck, here's my two cents' worth. And because I want to work myself up to a proper, full venting, there will be spoilers a-plenty.

We join the action shortly after the events of The Force Awakens. The Resistance (with no clear idea of what they're actually resisting) is fleeing from the relentless pursuit of The First Order (with no clear idea of what their order actually is). Death is closing in on our less-than-plucky heroes. Much running ensues.

And that's it, the entire plot in a nutshell. Yes, Rey (Daisy Ridley) goes off to receive training from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). But it…