QUICK HIT: The Prestige (Nolan, 2006)
The Prestige stars Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, two rival magicians in turn of the century London. Bale and Jackman do not disappoint. The Prestige does. It might seem odd to criticize a film about magic for relying on unexplained wonders that seemingly defy all physical laws, but that’s exactly what ruined the film. The entire film is organized like a magic trick (though the plot is unnecessarily complicated — must every film use flashback, starting with the end and then jumping around for two hours?). As we learn, magic tricks unfold in three parts, the last part being called the prestige. The prestige is supposed to restore order — the sawed in half woman is made whole; the magician stands atop the chains that once held him down — but the ending in The Prestige does no such thing. Order is not restored. More than that, the ending undermines whole swaths of the film and how we experience it. Suddenly we discover that the deck has been stacked against us. It’s a cheap, unsatisfying thrill. Which is a shame because Bale and Jackman are quite good.