Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Prestige (2006) - Christopher Nolan

The Prestige (2006)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (Screenplay), Christopher Nolan (Screenplay), Christopher Priest (Novel)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Samantha Mahurin, David Bowie, Andy Serkis

I'll be completely honest, the first time I saw Christopher Nolan's The Prestige I was not impressed. In fact I left the theater feeling pretty disappointed. Roger Ebert's review of the film pretty much summed up how I felt about it on my first viewing. However, even though it hadn't overly impressed me I still could not stop thinking about it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized what Christopher Nolan was trying to do with the film and the more I began to believe it was actually a pretty good film. Of course, this made me want to see the movie again but I kept putting it off, afraid that it might disappoint me again. However, I recently decided to read the book and that led me to watching the movie one more time.

This will be less of a review of the film and more of a discussion of what caused me to change to change my mind on how I felt about the film. Because of the nature of my original disappointment with the film, this discussion will involve some pretty big spoilers. If you haven't seen the movie do not read on past the jump.

The first time I saw the film, I was actually really enjoying it up until a certain point. The rivalry between the Borden and Angier was a magnificent story but then suddenly things changed. It seemed like, without warning that it became a science fiction film. The movie was no longer about men trying to top each other with better illusions but about a man trying to create one of these illusions for real. It really felt like the sci-fi element was just shoe-horned into the movie because the movie had no where else to go. I love sci-fi as much as the next guy but not when it is forced into a wonderful character study such as this.

That being said, for some reason I could not get the movie out of my head. The sci-fi element had really taken me for a loop but I couldn't stop thinking about it. I started to think about why the sci-fi element was a part of the story and what Nolan was trying to say about these two men by using it. Because of my original disappointment with the film, it took me some time to actually get it. The film was not just about the rivalry between these two men but about the obsession that these two men had for being the best at their craft. The film became about just how much these two men were willing to sacrifice for their obsession.

The sci-fi element helped to show just how much of a sacrifice Angier was willing to make to become a better illusionist then Borden. Borden was so obsessed with his illusions that he hid the fact that he was two men, there by only allowing each man to live half a life. Angier on the other hand was so obsessed that he willingly allowed himself to die every night on stage. When he stepped into Tesla's machine he had no idea if he would become the man teleported or the man drowning below stage and he was willing to take that chance to be the best. Once I realized all this, I saw that the sci-fi element was not just shoe-horned but was actually necessary for the development of the story.

It really took seeing the film a second time for me to really understand just what Nolan was trying to say with the story. I actually found that I enjoyed the story much more the second time around I was able to see how Nolan had expertly woven the sci-fi into the story. It seemed much more natural this time around. This is definitely one of those films that I feel needs to be seen twice to fully enjoy. Like any good magic trick, once you know the secret to the film, it does seem rather obvious. However, seeing how Nolan makes the story unfold once you know the secret is rather amazing.

This, of course, is not the first time a second viewing has changed my opinion of a film. I am quite sure that it will not be the last time either. A lot of things can affect your enjoyment of a film, from your surrounding to your state of mind at the time of seeing it. Then sometimes a second viewing is just necessary to pick up on some aspects you may have missed the first time around.

Rating: 8/10

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