The Prestige (2006)
Review by Philip French
There are few more enjoyable experiences in the cinema than seeing a director make a highly promising first feature and rapidly follow it up with something truly accomplished - Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets coming a mere few months after Boxcar Bertha, for example, Neil Jordan going straight on from Angel to the extraordinary The Company of Wolves and, at the cusp of the century, Christopher Nolan proceeding directly from the shoestring Following to the mesmeric Memento.
Nolan kept up the momentum with Insomnia and Batman Begins, the one a Hollywood remake of a Norwegian film, the other a revival of a franchise. In both, he pursues themes from the earlier movies that continue to preoccupy him in his outstanding new picture, The Prestige, among them the nature of time and perception, dangerous rivalries and serious game-playing between men and the changing, doubling and questioning of identities.
In The Prestige, which is co-scripted by Nolan and his brother Jonathan from a novel by Christopher Priest, the rivals are stage magicians in late Victorian London, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), a smooth American, and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), a rough-hewn cockney. We first see them together dressed as working men planted in the audience to be brought on stage to assist a magician performing a trick that involves a woman being bound with ropes and locked in a glass box filled with water.
Their employer is, in fact, the celebrated real-life illusionist...