Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Prestige

The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) [10]
Very often the film that I pick for the best of a certain year is a film that gets solid reviews by most critics, but is never a film that finds its way onto many critics' lists or awards (Munich kinda sorta being the exception). This film, barring there are many more strong contenders out there (and from what I deduce, there may not be), will be my pick for Useless Film Snob Reviews' Best Film of 2006. While I may be too wowed by it after just seeing it, Christopher's Nolan film of magic, jealousy, and macho one-upmanship is a dazzling piece of filmmaking.
Nolan is always a story focused filmmaker and this film contains some of the same high-wire writing and plot twists that made me a fan of his with Memento. The story focuses on the careers of two magicians, Angier the gifted showman played by Hugh Jackman and Borden, the better magician played by Christian Bale. The film revolves around the rival career arcs of the two men and the macho posturing and sabotaging of each by the other, all the result of a tragic accident that I don't want to reveal for anyone who hasn't seen the film. Nolan really focuses on the two men and their collision of egos which does cause the peripheral story elements to fall back. The magicians' motivations are so interesting that the lack of a strong surrounding story doesn't become an issue for me. The performances all around are good, especially Bale who comes across much more menacing than Jackman's character and Michael Caine is a great supporting role. The Scarlett Johansson character comes and goes without much thought but then again this really about the magicians and the role of magic.
I could go into a long discussion about the role of magic and its collision with science in the Victorian Era and its relation to reality and the importance of illusion but I don't want to sit here all day. (It would make a great paper though). Let's just say it creates a really interesting story with enough twists that rival any illusion or trick performed in the film. Nolan is often credited as being a very story focused writer and director but here, the visuals really appeal. The film deals very much in dark/bright contrasts but still manages to create a warmth as well as a coldness when the film needs it. On the entire filmmaker spectrum, The Prestige is the most accomplished film Nolan has made to date and a film that I have great respect for.

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