“Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled”
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Based on the book by Christopher Priest
Screenplay written by Jonathon and Christopher Nolan
Released November 2006
Running Time is 130 minutes
The Prestige… Wow… Easily one of my best movies of 2006.
The Plot… Christian Bale plays Alfred Borden and Hugh Jackman stars as Robert Angier. Both start out as a magic act, working on the same show. As they get more involved in the work, they both discover a passion for the art. One of the tricks goes wrong and Julia (Piper Perabo) dies, Angier blames Borden for her death. Angier and Julia were in a relationship. He accuses Borden of tying the wrong knot. Borden just keeps saying that he can’t remember what knot he tied. Angier takes that as an admission of guilt and a raging magic war ensues. They go their own ways, Borden and Angier decide to both go ahead and work on their own. Harry Cutter (Michael Caine) works with Angier. Borden has the help of a long-standing friend, Fallon. Both Angier and Borden keep making attempts to sabotage the others shows and tricks. Even to the point where Borden loses two fingers during a trick that goes wrong. We watch as their worlds get further and further into a land of magic as the rivalry goes on. During the movie, it appears that Borden is dating both his assistant, Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) and his wife, Sarah (Rebecca Hall). Angier originally sent Olivia over to spy on Borden, but she soon falls for him.
So, the whole movie revolves around a trick called “The Transported Man”. This involves the magician going into one chamber and re-appearing somewhere else. Angier sees that Borden has managed to do this trick, and he vows to find out how he does it. Angier goes to see Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) and his assistant Alley (Andy Serkis), as Tesla has developed what they believe to be a transporter. After some experiments, they discover that the machine duplicates whatever is in it, not actually transporting it. Angier decides to use this in his act in order to carry out “The Transported Man”.
Cutter explains that a trick must compose of three stages…
The Pledge – A preliminary object or action
The Turn – Action or deed that is to misdirect and distract the audience
The Prestige – The final reveal
Although the movie seems to be based on the trick of “The Transported Man”, I believe this to be a misdirection. The movie itself, fits into the three stages of the trick. My reasoning is as follows…
The Pledge - Borden is an ordinary man, pursing a dream of becoming a world renown magician
The Turn - Borden performs “The Transported Man” causing conflict and agitation in his rival, Angier, as he can’t find the secret. This also distracts the audience, causing us to focus on the trick and the rivalry rather than what is really happening. Borden is hanged for the incident of Julia’s death.
The Prestige - The big reveal. Borden is one of twins. One was dating Olivia, the other, Sarah. The reason Borden couldn’t say what knot he tied on the night of Julia’s death. They have been swapping characters all through out the film, adding and removing facial hair to ‘become’ each other.
After knowing the information that Borden is actually a twin, Fallon being the other, I have picked out a few instances when we, as viewers, may have been able to make a connection. The reason we didn’t is due to excellent writing and directing by the movies creative staff.
Instance 1 – We rarely see the complete face of Fallon. When we do, due to the facial hair and glasses we don’t pick up on the fact that it is Bale playing both characters – the audience are so distracted with everything that is going on, its hard for us to notice.
Instance 2 – During a few conversations that Borden has with his wife, Sarah, she states that she never knows if he loves her or not. Asking Borden “Do you love me today?” When he replies “No, not today” – Obvious to me now, that this was the brother that was in love with Olivia and not the one that Sarah married.Instance 3 – When Sarah announces to Borden that she is pregnant, his first reaction is “We should tell Fallon” – again giving the impression that this is the brother that loves Olivia.This movie is outstanding. It could even possibly be my favourite Christopher Nolan movie (and up until viewing this, I’ve always said it would be Inception). I love a movie with a twist, and I love a movie with a twist that I DIDN’T work out before we got it even more. I never would have guessed that they were twins before the reveal.
Christian Bale is an excellent actor in practically everything he does, but this movie is, in my opinion, by far his best performance. A lot of people say his best is The Machinist due to the weight loss and craziness, but I beg to differ. To be able to fluently play the role of two people, without it being obvious was exuberating to watch.
Hugh Jackman, although, in my opinion, only the supporting actor, was also effortlessly perfect in his role. Watching the insanity build inside of him, all because Borden could do THE trick was so riveting. To see Angier finally manage to do the trick himself, using Tesla’s machine (who, incidentally, Borden lead him to in the first place) and the happiness radiating from his character was a beautiful moment. Especially when he did it for the first time (read on a bit further for my thoughts on how he did the trick).
Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall were both excellent minority parts in the movie, both seamlessly keeping the air of mystery to the movie by giving us only slight hints that something wasn’t as it should be. Excellent performances from both of them, although I did find Olivia (Johansson’s character) to be slightly annoying at times, that may have been the plan but I’m not sure.
My final thoughts are with the way that Angier managed to pull off “The Transported Man” trick using the duplicating machine created by Tesla. I believe, Angier realised that every duplicate made would only have memories up to the point before he stepped into the machine, so they would believe that they were in fact Angier, and a magician – not a carbon copy as was the case. Angier obviously couldn’t have lots of copies of him running around, so he placed the padlock on the water tank below the trap door so that, each night, as the trap door was opened, the copy would land in the water – be unable to escape – therefore would drown. Leaving a new Angier free to continue. Using that thought train, it would mean, that Angier drowned his ‘original’ self, on the very first attempt at the trick, and a carbon copy continued on to the next night – to then drown the following night, and the next copy continue. This could be repeated over and over again until the trick was to be stopped. We find out at the end of the movie, Angier employed blind stage hands and cleaners for below the stage where the trap door lead to – this was so that no one would be able to see all the dead ‘Angier’s” in the water tanks below.