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The Prestige: Magic, mystery and more

“Are you watching closely?”

The film The Prestige asks that question over and over throughout the movie, but the question also applies to the viewer. Directed by Christopher Nolan from a script that he co-wrote with his brother Jonathan, The Prestige is a convoluted story designed, like a good magic trick, for the purpose of diversion.

Set in the Victorian world of brilliant minds, elaborate theaters and rival magicians, it has an ornate structure that takes the viewer in and out of subsequent chronologies, similar to the Nolans’ previous work Memento.

Utilizing flashbacks to further the mystery that the film provides, it begins at the end, in a murder trial.

In the center of the mystery are two magicians, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman). The two were once friends who shared apprentice positions to a magician, but they have become rival magicians.

Borden is a confident character. He is a member of the lower class of London who has a passion for magic to be innovative-not just the same idea behind every trick.

In contrast, Angier is a showman-an upper class smooth-talker who performs his way through his tricks. The style of the two magicians contrasts greatly as Borden prefers a more stripped down, raw show as opposed to Borden’s formal antics.

As the film progresses and the two magicians continue to rival, Borden and Angier do whatever they can to sabotage the other magician’s career, including undermining each other’s tricks and stealing secrets.

Borden invents a trick which Angier calls the greatest that he has ever seen. Both characters’ lives become dominated by the challenge of this one trick. What the viewer comes to find is that the lives of the two magicians are much more secretive than their magic tricks.

Scarlett Johansson plays Olivia, the assistant to the magicians. She plays a key part in helping them steal one another’s acts and the secrets behind them.

Michael Caine plays a solid role throughout the film, exercising his knowledge of magic as Angier’s manager and the designer of his show. Caine’s performance creates a guessing game, giving the impression that he knows something that the viewer does not.

The story is climaxed by an ending that envelopes the entire plot-Christopher Nolan shows every frame of the movie for a reason. David Bowie joins the film as real life inventor Nikola Tesla, who is described as being a wizard.

Tesla is Thomas Edison’s rival, a rivalry that seems to parallel that of Angier and Borden. The two inventors stumble across the same idea, which was originally sought by Angier. The invention becomes Angier’s greatest feat as a magician-a step up from Borden’s trick, as well as the plague of his career.

The performances in the film are certainly noteworthy, but are not the stand-out element of the film.

After all, the point of a magic trick is not to hear the magician’s elaborate rhetoric but the outcome of the trick itself, otherwise known as the prestige.

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