The Prestige Review – Good but Not Great

(For SI blog reader Rakeshbaba)

A short while ago, we watched the Christopher ‘Memento‘ Nolan directed film The Prestige (2006).

The movie is alright (well, by Bollywood standards or lack thereof, most Hollywood films would pass muster) but didn’t get us on a high.

With its central theme of intense rivalry, one-upmanship and revenge between two magicians (played by Hugh Jackman and Christian ‘Batman’ Bale), The Prestige is set for the most part in late 19th century London with a short interlude in America.

The story is reasonably interesting, the photography impressive and there’s even a nice twist at the end.

Sure, the principals Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale were alright. But we didn’t think either of them set the stage on fire.

We doubt Christian Bale has it in him to ever do that. Give him a fancy motorbike or a jazzy, low-slung car (like the ones Batman whooshes in) and he’ll dazzle the hell out of you. But he’s too stiff in roles that demand passion.

A combination of Robert Downey Jr and the late Heath Ledger would have probably made a big difference and given the movie a badly-needed shot of adrenaline. No harm in dreaming, right.

Scarlett Johansson was fine but we were more impressed with Rebecca Hall, Michael Caine and David Bowie, who play their parts notably.

Given the novel theme, one would have expected high drama. Alas, that’s what is missing here.

Instead of a fast gallop, the movie merely proceeds at a steady trot.

Also, the dialogs never had the zing and the verbal jousting that one expects from a confrontation between two highly ambitious performers on stage.

By the way, the screenplay is by the Nolan brothers Christopher and Jonathan based on the novel by Christopher Priest.

We can’t think of even a single ‘wow’ moment in the movie.

While the rivalry is supposed to be intense between these two magicians, the bitterness seldom comes to the fore in stark, vivid detail.

All in all, this is a movie worth watching but just don’t expect the cast or the director to pull a rabbit out of the hat, figuratively speaking.

That ain’t gonna happen.

13 Responses to "The Prestige Review – Good but Not Great"

  1. sganeshkumar1989   January 29, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Watched it once in WB channel.It was good over-all, but couldn’t understand why it’s rated so high! (#74 in IMDB now) Responds:

    You write: Watched it once…but couldn’t understand why it’s rated so high

    Well, how do you explain the stampede to see 3 Idiots.

  2. Twig   January 29, 2010 at 8:22 am

    For me “The Prestige” is one of the best movies I have seen. I liked it immensely because of non-linear screen play, Magicians rivalry (as it was first time for me in the world of Magic) and partly because of Nikola Tesla. Nikola Tesla is one of my all time favorite human beings.
    As it is set in 19th century, care should be taken that it should not be like a theater drama production with all that huha dialogues. Cinematically speaking, cinematography was top notch. The emotions in the movie are more real than the ones in hyper dramatic “Slumdog Millionaire”. πŸ˜‰ Responds:

    You write: I liked it immensely because of non-linear screen play,

    Non-linear screenplay is Chris Nolan’s forte.

    We may watch The Prestige one more time.

  3. Twig   January 29, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Also, what about the response to that article? πŸ™‚ Responds:

    Will come. Been preoccupied with some pressing stuff. But come it will. Don’t fret.

  4. iamsumu   January 29, 2010 at 9:53 am

    The concept of dazzling the audience works if the movie was set in today’s time. You have to consider this was set about a 100 years back.

    The understated brilliance of Hugh Jackman (from his theater exposure and even last years Oscars) comes to the fore.

    Could the movie have been better edited? Probably, but I dont expect every movie to gallop, just like when savoring a bottle of fine wine I dont expect the raw power of a cheap vodka. Responds:

    You write: The concept of dazzling the audience works if the movie was set in today’s time. You have to consider this was set about a 100 years back.

    No can agree.

    Showmanship and the ability to dazzle the audience was very important even then.

    That point is highlighted in the movie itself…if you remember, one of the major failings of Alfred/Freddie (Christian Bale) as per the story is that he lacks the showmanship skills of Danton to wow the audience despite his better tricks.

    That point is made more than once in the movie. Remember?

    Considering that both are magicians working on a stage with direct access to the crowd they must dazzle their audience and ultimately us.

  5. satya   January 29, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I’ve always been a great fan of nolan movies . It is the implied meanings in the movie which catches attention.
    You remember that chinese magician’s , Disappearing a ‘Fish Tank’ act ? . It’s quite a small scene, and almost irrelevant to the movie. He understands that his flagship magic trick, to look surreally magical, needs a heavy personality quirk. To ensure that he can pull this quirk on stage, he lives with that quirk off-stage. Every day, through his life, he ‘lives’ his act. just like ‘Method Acting’ this is ‘Method Living’!!.
    Have you come across people who ‘live’ an ‘Act’ ? .
    To me a prestige is a brilliant period sci-fi drama !!.

    see nolan’s insomnia also . you will love Al pacino Responds:

    1. Yes, introducing the Chinese magician to highlight the dedication to ‘living the act’ and then linking it up to the last few minutes where you now understand how Bale ‘lives for the act’ was good.

    2. You write: Have you come across people who ‘live’ an ‘Act’ ?

    No, not in the entertainment business but we’ve seen extraordinary dedication to the ‘act’ in other walks of life.

    3. Will watch Insomnia.

  6. iamsumu   January 29, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Unrelated note, wondering if the SI team has watched this new national integration video Phir Mile Sure Mera Tumhara

    There are 2 parts to this video.

    Its a “new” version of the old DD classic. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on that. Responds:

    Watched it the other day.

    Feel-good nonsense.

    Felt nostalgic initially but then got irritated to see Bollywood folks like that Bachcha, the Big Buffoon who routinely profits from theft.

    If patriotism could be infused by such blather…ha ha ha.

    Who was it who said…No man can be a patriot on an empty stomach.

    Bottom line, Phir Mile Drivel.

  7. rakeshbaba   January 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    you are right if robert downey jr and great heath ledger would have done the lead roles then it will be treat but i think both hugh jackman and christian bale have done a good job Responds:

    The movie was alright but we didn’t feel that orgasmic thrill coursing through our body.

  8. vjcool   January 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Loved it because of Tesla. He did seem to have dabbled in teleportation experiments.. but there were more amazing stuff done by him, yet the crafty Edison is all we are taught and thats who we remember. hmm.. would like to see a decent film on Tesla and would like to see his experiments explained (more of how he approached his projects). The fantastical nature of his experiments combined with how practical it was can bowl us over and humans with imagination can evolve. do you think anyone would make a movie that says the truth about Tesla and Edison. Responds:

    1. Just checked Tesla’s Wiki profile…surprised there are no references to movies centering around his life.

    Maybe, we should check on Netflix.

    2. You write: do you think anyone would make a movie that says the truth about Tesla and Edison

    What is ‘the truth

    Most ‘truths’ are but approximations.

    • vjcool   January 30, 2010 at 2:29 am

      approximations.. will do..better still will be a well researched film that just shows their story and let people decide. some will like Edison, some wont.. some will like Tesla and still endorse Edison. Anyway with robert downey jr and Jack Nicholson this can be an electrifying drama..

      BTW have you seen ‘As good as it gets’.. quite nice.

      and ‘District B13’ no good story.. but enough excitement to keep you entertained Responds:

      Yes, we’ve seen the Jack Nicholson film As good as it gets.

      District B13 – No, but it’s on our list of movies to watch.

  9. kd36939   January 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    i am almost positive that you may not like Illusionist then. Responds:

    We’ll know next week.

    • Jump a Lahiri   January 29, 2010 at 3:44 pm

      I liked the Illusionist.. the Illusionist seems to have done much better (86%) with “top” RT critics than Prestige (55%). Om Bielaya Namaha. Responds:

      You write: Om Bielaya Namaha.

      We second that. πŸ˜‰

      Just back from Goa and our first MLA Pesarattu Dosa.

      • Jump a Lahiri   January 29, 2010 at 10:54 pm

        Goa review engappa/engamma? Responds:

        Here you go, sweetie:

        * Goa Review – Insufferable Garbage

        * Soundarya Rajinikant’s First Baby is a Freak

        * Poor Response to Goa

      • Jump a Lahiri   February 1, 2010 at 10:54 am

        watched the movie yesterday.. was left vastly underwhelmed..

        (Spoilers ahead.. sorta)
        probably because wifey rightly guessed who Lord Caldlow was and I guessed who Fallon was, very early in the movie.. and add the ridiculousness of the Tesla’s machine( I felt cheated by “The Prestige” of the “The Prestige”) to it.. it was a f*cking damp squib. Maybe I shouldn’t have been expecting Nolan to deliver another Memento..

        Liked The Illusionist probably because I thought the prestige in it was very logical.. now that you know there is a surprise twist involved in the Illusionist, you’d also probably guess it very early.. but overall, I though Norton and Biel were much more enchanting than the ugly characters of The Prestige.

        I may have also liked “The Illusionist” better because I watched it without any SI-reader-hype.. your readers are lunatics! Responds:

        Underwhelming for us too probably because of the heightened expectations.

        Will watch The Illusionist this week.

        Offtopic: We watched The White Ribbon in the theatre yesterday based on SI blog reader unknownvirus‘ ‘recommendation.’ Good.

        Review coming later today or tomorrow.

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