(PG-13) Two and a half stars
After the press screening for The Prestige, a few of us gathered together — something that rarely occurs at such screenings — and had a spirited discussion for 10 or 15 minutes as we tried to sort out what the hell happened at the end of the movie. We ended our conversation without reaching a consensus.
Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Beyond) offers another brooding tale, this one about a feud between magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borman (Christian Bale) set in Britain in the early 1900s. The rich atmosphere, intriguing behind-the-illusions glimpses and intense performances of the leads carry the film for a while, with their angry, obsessive and sometimes felonious antics masking a distinct lack of character development.
Dandy supporting performances from Michael Caine as Cutter, the man who crafts the appliances behind the illusions, David Bowie — what a nice surprise — as, of all people, the mysterious Nikola Tesla and Andy Serkis as his spirited right hand man, Mr. Alley, are a big plus. Of the women, Angier’s wife Julia (Piper Peabo) and Borman’s wife Sarah (Rebecca Hall) are given little to do except suffer nobly. Only Angier’s assistant Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) is permitted to be interesting.
I want to talk to you about the ending of the movie. Oh man, I really want to talk to you about the ending, but there is no way I can address the subject without revealing key plot points. The most I can say is that Nolan leaves us with an annoyingly convoluted finale that incorporates a deus ex machine straight out of Star Trek.
The bottom line is that The Prestige is a good-looking, well-structured, strongly-acted film that ultimately dies from hypothermia. That, and a bullshit ending.
One last thing: If you are a magician, would you contact me and let me know if the disappearing birdie trick ever worked the way it is shown to work in the movie? I hope it didn’t, but I suspect it did.