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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.


The Prestige on IMDb

Plot Overview

right handCirca 1990s, London, England. Milton the Magician (Ricky Jay) employs two plants in the audience, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) & Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman,) to bind the hands and feet of Angier's wife Julia (Piper Perabo,) Milton's stage assistant, before she's hoisted and lowered into a tank of water to escape within a minute (or die trying.) There's an off-stage debate whether to continue using a slip knot for her hands, which could fail and drop her causing injury, or use a more solid Lang­ford double that would hold better but is harder to get out of when wet. When tragedy befalls the assistant, Angier suspects Borden tied the wrong knot who for his part can't remember. A blood feud ensues distracting them from all else as they also compete in the arena of magic.

Back then life was more hands-on than in our modern era, so we're generally less familiar with knots. How­ever, we all know the slip knot, a glorified version of which we use to tie our shoes. They are prone to come undone, so I use an enhanced version that employs one extra twist of the lace before cinching it tight. It stays tied but is hard to untie once it gets wet. It's identical to a double noose laid on its side, with only two turns in the coil. One can see the single-noose version hung vertically in a small, framed picture in the Director's Notebook of the Bonus Features on the DVD my copy of the movie came on. Display it in public on a big screen, and some­one will likely complain. Our city council has out­right banned noose displays. Yet I wear my shoes unchallenged all over town. They're tied for function, not for display. And what ever became of free speech?

puzzledBesides hanging, this movie presents falls, drowning, shooting, electric shock, and being buried alive as means of meeting one's end or wowing an audience, depending on whether it's real or not. Sadly, I knew a grade school boy who hanged himself in the barn playing at cowboys, not expecting he would die. At a very young age it's hard to tell reality from illusion. It's best we slap a PG–13 rating on this film and leave the dangerous tricks to the professionals.


man w/a plan

Angier “the Great Danton” tells us, “The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It's miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder—” He echoes a famous preacher whose treatise on this sorry world dominated by vanity offers trans­cen­dence only in the almighty. (Eccl. 4:1) “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.” We see historical wizard Nikolas Tesla (1856–1943) oppressed by his nemesis Thomas Edison (1847–1931) over a competition between alternating and direct current, neither of them finding much satisfaction. Tesla was in the position of a female scientist in a Greg Bear novel:

If she was right, she was about to overturn a major scientific paradigm, injure a lot of reputations, cause the scientific fight of the twenty-first century, a war actually, and she did not want to be an early casualty because she had come to the battle­field in half a suit of armor. (311)

saplingsWhen Tesla pulls up stakes after some forcible encouragement, he leaves an invention with Angier, telling him, “The truly extraordinary is not permitted in science and industry. Perhaps you'll find more luck in your field, where people are happy to be mystified.” His science was better than his rival's, but he could not prevail politically.

(Eccl. 4:2) “Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.” The magician's engineer (ingénieur) Cutter (Sir Michael Caine) shows us a trick of making a bird disappear and reappear again. It's a sorry existence for a manhandled birdie on stage; his “brother” that was snuffed in the process was better off put out of his misery.

(Eccl. 4:3) “Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.” Better off than both are the little chickadees held in reserve whose debut has yet to come.

(Eccl. 4:4) “Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit.” The success­fully performed magic tricks lead to envy from other magicians and all kinds of mischief.

man and child(Eccl. 4:5) “The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh.” When the reputation of Borden tanks, he still has his family to feed and no savings to speak of. That's when he brings out his ace in the hole, with a little help from Mother Nature.

Methodology is important(Eccl. 4:6) “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” Borden “the Professor” uses a straight­forward quirk of nature to perform his “trans­ported man” trick without the mysterious science Angier needed for his “new trans­ported man,” (“man's reach exceeds his grasp”) the former getting the job done with­out the repercussions of the latter (“What you are about to witness … is purely science.”)

Production Values

” (2006) was directed by Christopher Nolan. Its screenplay as written by brothers Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan as developed from Christopher Priest's novel, The Prestige. It stars Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson. Jackman and Bale are evenly matched as devious duelling magicians. The supporting cast did a great job, too. David Bowie was perfect as Nikola Tesla, a real historical scientist who expanded the frontiers of science with his electricity experiments. He came up with the “Tesla coil” to generate impressive but harmless lightning effects, which are shown here. His brief appearances matched my childhood hero images of him, although in real life he ended up a bit deranged.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for violence and disturbing images. Settings seemed historically accurate. Costumes were largely earth tones to accentuate the white faces. First rate cinema­tog­raphy was by Wally Pfister. An embellishing musical score was by David Julyan. Runtime is 2 hours 10 minutes.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

Multiple timelines are woven together making it hard but not impossible to piece together the story. The two main magicians were so similar in appearance it was hard to tell them apart, especially after sharing the same mistress for a while. Multiple viewings help sort that out, but it's still a challenge. This one is interesting but not for the faint of heart. Rather than a 'Wow!' it's more of a 'Huh?'

Works Cited

Scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Bear, Greg. Darwin's Radio. Copy­right © 1999 by Greg Bear. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000. Print.