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"The Prestige"

Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan.  Based on the novel by Christopher Priest.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson and Michael Caine.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  10/29/06


Hey, it's my man Chris Nolan--the man that gave us "Memento", my favorite film of 2000--so I had to check out the magician flick "The Prestige", even though this is the second freakin' magician flick I've seen this year.  Thankfully, "The Prestige" is MUCH better than "The Illusionist", especially if you like your story with some bite to go along with the bark, not just a sappy, predictable love story.

Set in London some time long ago, "The Prestige" opens with the drowning of master showman The Great Danton, aka Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman, playing what sounds like an American accent this go-round)...this drowning apparently comes at the hands of his chief magician rival, The Professor, aka Alfred Borden (Christian Bale, Nolan's lead in "Batman Begins"), who is immediately thrown into prison and given the death penalty.  Over the course of a number of flashbacks, we get into the meat of why these two men are rivals, what tricks they come up with to establish themselves as the greatest magicians in England and what leads them to the point where they begin stealing ideas from each other, leading to Angier's unfortunate demise.

The theme throughout "The Prestige" is "be sure to watch closely", and generally, it's a fun film to watch as we see the two men design tricks, entertain audiences, conduct personal lives and their very personal rivalry and ultimately try to develop the one trick that could make them world-famous.  The script by Nolan and his brother Jonathan (based on a novel) is, in the words of my friend Ross, "'s just a good movie, you know?"  You get that feeling throughout "The Prestige"--it's just quality, through and through, giving us some romance, some sleight-of-hand (frequent magic man collaborator and actor Ricky Jay also makes an appearance here), some science magic, some mystery and plot twists.  None of these set the world on fire on their own, but together, especially with a cast this good (Jackman gets better with every film; one can see why he's so well-regarded as a stage performer, not just as the brawn behind Wolverine in those "X-Men" films) and a proven talent behind the camera, the movie is great in almost every way...

...except for the ending.  I won't reveal how things wrap up here but suffice it to say, I was unhappy with how "The Prestige" concludes.  There are certain parts about the ending that make sense, especially after we discover things about the machine that Angier has developed for him, thanks to electricity genius Nikola Tesla (a real-life scientist, played here by David Bowie).  But, the film's real ending was so ridiculous I actually was looking to talk to somebody in the lobby after the film to see if they agreed with me.  Seriously, if you've seen this film, feel free to call me so you can hear me bitching about the last few frames of the movie...ugh.

This alone dropped this out of Opening Weekend territory for me, but still, "The Prestige" is a great film.  When will Chris Nolan do wrong?  Hopefully, never.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09