The Prestige (2006)

(In theaters, October 2006) Yes, I just spoiled a good part of the film by classifying it as “Science Fiction”. One wouldn’t think, for instance, that SF would apply to a tale about feuding magicians at the turn of the nineteenth century: But by telling you that Nikola Tesla is involved and that the film is adapted from the novel by renowned SF author Christopher Priest, I’m not exactly revealing anything that can’t be deduced from the movie poster. Yet The Prestige is such a sure-footed piece of cinema that I could tell you the ending right away and you would still enjoy the entire film. It gives you enough clues to figure it all out, sometimes through heavy symbolism, but the way it’s all put together is nothing short of amazing. There’s some serious skill at work here, from the direction to the set decoration to the writing: At some point, the film delves into three levels of flashbacks yet still makes perfect sense, playing back and forth with dramatic irony, multiple diaries/narration, fascinating details about the stage magic industry and a wonderful small role for David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. Though the take-no-prisoners ending relies too much on its tricks and not enough on its emotional content, there’s a lot to like here. The images are gorgeous, the acting is fun (fans of Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman will not be disappointed), the direction is slick and the story is mesmerizing.

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