Review: The Prestige

The Prestige

So in a fit of Daniel Craig-inspired self-loathing, I spent a few hours down the gym on Saturday. Now my normal Daniel Craig-esque physique is restored. Phew. But since my wife wanted me out the house for a while more – she works hard, she does, and I’m somewhat distracting, thanks to my aforementioned Daniel Craig-esque physique – I went to see The Prestige, a tale of two Victorian conjurors trying to kill each other.

The trouble with The Prestige is that it revolves around a single magic trick, done in three different ways. If you can guess two of them, it’s not a great movie but it’s still very interesting and fun; if you can’t, you’ll feel cheated when you hear how they’re done, but it’ll have been worth watching.

If I say too much, I’ll spoil it for you, but here’s what I can tell you. Christian Bale plays Alfred Borden, a gifted magician without much hint of showmanship; Hugh Jackman plays Robert Angier, a gifted showman without much hint of magicianship. After a falling out between the two partners, both go solo and try to out-do and even kill the other, on-stage and off-stage. Things eventually come to a head over The Transported Man, a trick in which one magician is seen to disappear and reappear on the other side of the stage just a second later.

That’s it. I can’t tell you any more than that without ruining it for you. There is, however, a surprisingly good cameo by David Bowie as Nikolas Tesla, the well known Serb scientist. Who’d have thought that sentence was ever going to be written?

The direction is first rate, the acting a little less so, with just about every member of the cast putting on an accent other than their own (Jackman puts on three, but he’s a show-off). It’s well written and will require your concentration at almost all times. But the denouement will leave you cheated if you didn’t guess it: it’s kind of like watching a magic trick and then be told it was done using a combination of a regular handkerchief and magic dust from the land of Middle Earth. Even if you do guess it, though, it’s fascinating to see how the script was crafted to give you the clues and to see the effects on the characters.

As the Kermode says, Christopher Nolan films are a bit like doing Sudoku puzzles (he also directed Memento), but provided you can ignore Scarlett Johannsson, it’s worth watching if you fancy some intellectual stimulation.

Cinema used for the review: Odeon Beckenham, screen 6. In contrast to screen 3, this has a far greater incline for the seats, so I was able to sit up straight and not destroy my back, as with Casino Royale. No air con, because the building’s listed, but that wasn’t a problem in this relatively unpacked screening.

Here’s the trailer:




  • Nolan’s making a mark for himself with his intricate plotting and did Memento show it off to great effect. I did think that the constant telescoping of time in The Prestige was really effective, especially as it wasn’t a short film, but at the same time I felt it had rather stultifying effect on the pace…
    Having said that I was in a very weird mood when I watched it, so my reaction isn’t very balanced.