The Cinematic Magic of The Prestige

Photo by Sergi Viladesau via Unsplash

The Prestige is a 2006 film directed by Christopher Nolan. In my opinion, it is one of his best films and second only to 2008’s The Dark Knight. I feel that with the popular acclaim of his films such as his ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’, Inception and Memento this film gets hugely overlooked.

In this article, I am going to review the film as well as provide reasons as to why I feel it is overlooked in the grand scheme of Nolan’s filmography. 

I will start with the story of the film. I particularly love how the film was written. The screenplay is credited to both Christopher and Johnathan Nolan. It is an adaptation of the book The Prestige by Christopher Priest. The story unfolds remarkably as it pits two magicians against each other. It displays how their rivalry develops and intensifies with time. With each passing trick, they put themselves and the people around them more in danger. The film gets a lot of its tension through this.

It is a tale of an obsession for the most part. It shows how dangerous this can be as well as how it can affect not just yourself but the people around you. Our two leads played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are both deeply interesting characters. This being because they are very much opposites despite being in the same field. Their conflict is fascinating even outside of their attempts to one-up each other. The conflict very much extends out of that. Towards the climax of the film, it gets extremely intense. Despite not having the grand scale of a film like The Dark Knight or Inception it still remains as thrilling as both of those films. 

The film contains lots of excellent performances. Hugh Jackman is fantastic in the film. He gets the swaggering arrogance of his character down perfectly, and throughout the film, he is exciting to watch. He is very much belongs to the upper class and does a great job of embodying that. Christian Bale plays the opposite. He is a magician but he is a member of the working class. He comes from a completely different world to that of Jackman’s.

With his character, you very much see how his obsession ruins his family life and it is fascinating to watch. Michael Caine is also fantastic in the film as a mentor to Jackman’s character. He has the usual charm that comes with most of his performances and it works really well. Scarlett Johansson is superb as Jackman’s character’s assistant. Her character is placed in the middle of Bale’s and Jackman’s conflict. She plays the conflicted nature very well. There is also a great performance by the late David Bowie in this too as Nikola Tesla. His role is not big, but his character is very important to the story and Bowie does a good job with the role. 

The film is also shot beautifully by Wally Pfister. There are some really wonderful shots. One of my favourites involving a field with lightbulbs on it. From a technical standpoint, I take no issue with the film. The special effects in the film are also really excellent. The set design also does a great job of capturing the period piece setting of the film. It really is a beautiful film to look at. I also really enjoy David Julyan’s score for this too. 

Overall, I do feel that it is a very underrated film. It is entertaining to watch and has a compelling story. It contains lots of really excellent performances and has exciting visual spectacle. I feel that it is underrated in the cannon of Nolan’s filmography, which is why the film is often overlooked. It is markedly different from some of Nolan’s other films but I still think he nails it. For one it is a period piece and a smaller scale film compared to films like Inception or Interstellar. In a way, the film is based more on character than spectacle and I find it very interesting. It really is a fantastic film that I would highly recommend.

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