The Prestige follows the rivalry of two young magicians, Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), who repeatedly ruin one another’s performances and often place each other in physical danger. As it unfolds in scattered fragments of time, the narrative requires viewers to participate actively in piecing the story together. That is, until the ending when all the details of the plot are spelled out in a needlessly melodramatic death scene.
The film’s title refers to the third act of a magic trick. “The pledge” shows the audience a seemingly normal object; “the turn” conceals or alters the object; finally, “the prestige” is the return of the object in a surprising manner. Dealing with an art form that creates an illusion for audiences, it is hard not to see echoes of the cinematic medium. To me, the cleverest part of The Prestige is this reflexivity that is implied in the very framework of the film. Does cinema not conceal and manipulate reality in order to create an illusion?
Several violent images earn this film a PG-13 rating, but it should be easily digestible for audiences of that age. The persistent presence of revenge proves that obsession with vengeance is futile and unfulfilling. Ultimately, The Prestige does a good job of inserting intelligent cinematic elements into a familiar genre. If you enjoy this movie, I recommend going a step further and giving Ingmar Bergman’s classic film Persona a try.
Hilary Rowe received her B.A. in Film Studies and English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005. Since then she has worked in campus ministry for FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. She currently serves as FOCUS Team Director at the University of Colorado.