Saturday, March 5, 2011

REVIEW: The Prestige

I'm going to begin this review with the most concrete content issues, because if you haven't seen the film and plan to see it, watch it before you read my review. The twist in this film is crucial to the impact thereof. I'll list the content issues first, so that you can decide if you wouldn't want to see it anyway. It is definitely not a family (with little kids) film.

- a few shots of a man without a shirt
- multiple appearances of women who are not decently clothed- mostly in the form of magicians' assistants, also one or two nightgown shots. This consists of low cleavage and high skirts... I spent a lot of these shots using peripheral vision or simply watching our back door.
- semi-graphic violence- bloody fingers, screams, a shooting, etc.
- people drowning/drowned in glass boxes- very disturbing, and reoccurring through flashbacks, and through happenings, a few times, though it isn't something that we see the whole film long.
- somebody is buried alive- he doesn't die, he's rescued, but it's a scary thought...
- a woman hangs herself
- probably more stuff too...

For a more detailed review, see here:
Also, for our family policy on questionable films, please see here:

If you might still be interested in seeing the film- watch it first! Then read my review. I'll be spoiling the end, and it's a big spoil in this film.

That said, on to the review.

The Film
The Prestige is a fascinating, mind-bending, and disturbing film. The plot centers around two professional magicians, each attempting to be better than the other. Note- by magicians, I mean illusionists, not wizards. No, they aren't dabbling in the supernatural.

It was an excellently done film. Very well mood-controlled, great directing by Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception), great acting by Christian Bale, and all together simply a well done film.

The score was great for the film, though it wasn't anything special on its own.

The story is what really makes The Prestige worth watching. Chris Nolan's non-linear (not- well, not in a line. Showing things out of order.) storytelling style makes it tough sometimes to understand what's happening. That said, the non-linearity in Prestige was, in my opinion, much better handled than that in Inception, which I thought was a little forced. In fact, the whole story in this film seemed more solidly handled than that in Inception- but I digress.

At the end of the film we learn that (I didn't get this the first time) one magician was actually two men all along- two twins. What a wowing moment for the viewer! Then comes the next twist, made all the eerier by Michael Caine's excellent and monotonous narration- the other magician had been scientifically duplicating himself to create the ultimate magic trick- and then murdering the duplicates.

Other than the pop song in the credits (WHY?), this film was very well done, and from a filmmaking standpoint definitely ranks very high.

The one other thing that bugs me is- why didn't Michael Caine's character just open the trick lock when the girl was drowning, instead of smashing through the case?

The Worldview

The twist at the end has huge implications for the worldview of the film.

Overall, the film is pretty miserable. Neither of the magicians, the whole film long, are really very nice characters. And for that we may be grateful- the film tells a story, but we don't really have someone to cheer for. We like Christian Bale's character a bit more, but only at the very end do we realize that we can actually justify doing so.

When we find out that, all along, "Freddie" was actually two men, we realize that one man was the hot-tempered and violent one, and the other was the cool-headed one who didn't want to prolong the troubles. We find out that, all along, while Freddie's wife thought he was committing adultery (as did the woman he was committing adultery with), it was actually the two twins- one man loving one woman, and the other man another. We see here the consequences of deception and the consequences of a man working with a woman who is not his wife as his helper, though by the end we see that the real husband did stay faithful. (Kinda- but if they're both playing both roles... that presents a problem.)

We also have the issue of- if a man duplicates his body, would his soul be duplicated as well? I don't think so... ultimately, God gives life to every person. Mess with atoms all that it may, science cannot give life.

So, it's a fascinating film to ponder morally...

A very potent, and perhaps the most obvious moral of the film is that obsession brings only misery.

So in summary of the worldview- it was pretty bad, but wasn't really modeled as a good thing that it was bad. We don't really find ourselves cheering for either magician wholeheartedly (at least I didn't) until we discover at the end that the one brother, faulted though he be, is truly noble-hearted. The other two got their just desserts.

Another thing I like about the two Nolan films I've seen- in both, family is treasured! What a great thing!

Recommended for mature viewers, especially those who want to study storytelling. 4/5


Rebekah said...

Hmm... Sounds interesting. I did read the whole review, since I'm not sure whether I'll ever see it or not... I don't usually pick the modern movies that we watch.

Was the song in the credits somewhere in the middle of the film, like in "Legend of the Guardians" or was it a random song that had little or nothing to do with the movie? Most credit songs just aren't worth listening to... well the first half anyway. Usually they change into something else that's better half way through - like in "How to Train Your Dragon". :)

To the KING be all the glory!

Gabriel Hudelson said...

No, it wasn't anywhere in the film. And I'm very happy about that.

Yes, I think after the pop song runs its course the composer usually gets the rest... pity is, most people have left!

John-Clay Burnett said...

I really appreciated this review, very well said!

Rebekah said...

'Tis a pity. Not all people are as crazy as I am and watch all the the credits until the end! Perhaps most people tend to appreciate the pop songs in the credits, though? Even "The Lord of the Rings" has unrelated singing music in part of their 15-20 minute long credits! (Though it's slow sad sounding music, if I remember correctly.)

To the KING be all the glory!