Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Prestige

So there are movies that do not invite much reflection. Sahara comes to mind - an adventure romp with a redneck rock soundtrack and little more logic than is needed to hold it into a semi-coherent shape. Then there are those that have depth, and invite running scenes, sequences, and lines back again, and re-evaluating them in new light. The Prestige is one of those films, and if you haven't seen it, hie thee hence to do so.

In a nutshell, The Prestige is about dueling stage magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) at the turn of the 20th Century. They're friends, then rivals, then enemies, and each plays the other in a series of illusions, lies, and tricks. To say more is to give the game away, and it is a very good game. The opening sequence is a bunch of top hats in a snowfield, and the voiceover asks "Are you paying attention?" And yeah, you should.

The thing is that this movie about stage magic moves with the smoothness of a magic act, but also hurtles between time and locations without losing the viewer. We're in a London prison, then we're in Colorado Springs, then we're on a stage in London years earlier, each shift smooth as silk, each point building to the final reveal, the Prestige, as the magic act is referred to. It should be a jumble, but instead it is a coherent flow.

This is one of those cross-genre movies that defines itself. Yes, it is adventure and romance and a mystery. Then Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) arrives on the scene and things take a definite SFish turn with Arthur C. Clarke overtones. Yet it resolves, and you see how the trick is down and you just let out the breath you've been holding and say, "yeah".

It is puzzlebox of a film, and there were a couple points where I was thinking "OK, I have this figured out" to find out that I was wrong, or just a little bit wrong. It is one of those films that does reward you to pay attention, and it makes me want to dig up the work of the original author, Christopher Priest (who is not the Christopher J. Priest (formerly known as Jim Owlsey) who writes Black Panther but a very different animal entirely).

Go see this film. Don't dig out any more information. Don't spoil it for yourself.T This is a film that rewards the open mind. Go enjoy.

More later,