Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Samantha Mahurin, David Bowie, Andy Serkis, Daniel Davis, Jim Piddock, Christopher Neame, Mark Ryan, Roger Rees, Ricky Jay
Written by: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, based on a novel by Christopher Priest
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and disturbing images
Running Time: 128
Date: 10/17/2006

The Prestige (2006)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Believing in Magic

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Christopher Nolan's fifth feature film is a return to form and an escape from the expensive, junky explosions and chase scenes of Batman Begins. Yet it still maintains that film's delicious, dark psychology. It's also a grand step up from this year's similar The Illusionist, which utilized CGI tricks for its sleight-of-hand sequences. The Prestige gives us tricks that look real, at least until it delves into areas of science fiction best left unexplained.

Young magicians Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) become rivals after an accident during an underwater trick. They not only try to one-up each other's tricks, but they also try to sabotage one another. Most of the action revolves around the "Transported Man," in which the performer disappears and re-appears at the other end of the stage in just a heartbeat. Co-written with the director's brother Jonathan Nolan, The Prestige utilizes a complex editing style that calls to mind their earlier triumph Memento, jumping around in time, but remaining perfectly clear.

The director retains his exemplary skill with actors, achieving some of the finest ever by Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Piper Perabo and especially David Bowie in a tiny, pivotal role. The film begins to teeter slightly as it reaches its climax; it takes too long to unveil the many twists and surprises, but up to then, this is impeccable, enormously invigorating filmmaking.

DVD Details: Buena Vista has released this film on DVD, and it's very much worth seeing more than once. Extras include a "director's notebook," which is a 20-minute multi-part making-of documentary that consists of some behind-the-scenes footage and an interview with Nolan. There's also a collection of stills, posters and other photos. On the main menu, you can click on one of four icons to change the spinning "magic" image.

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