Monday, 10 March 2014

Sunday night movie - The Prestige

Sunday evening is generally a movie evening for me. An opportunity to just sit back and relax after a week of work. I'll watch pretty much anything but generally I don't want to be too challenged. That is to say I enjoy a good story but I don't want to have to think too hard.
I chose a Christopher Nolan film; The Prestige.

For anyone that's not familiar with Christopher Nolan's work I'll run a couple past you: Memento, The Dark Knight, Inception.
Each of those films has a theme. Each has a trademark complexity. Nolan enjoys constructing a rich and detailed narrative to his work that combines strong story, strong acting and a complex structure. He has very little interest in the traditional sequential approach to film production and instead likes to divert the viewers attention and take them out of the "normal" flow of watching a story unfold.
It all works very well. Inception was a clever film that epitomised this approach. It could have failed horribly for all of its complexities. But it ties things together pretty well and is ultimately a powerful story.
The Prestige offers similar complexities and an equally intriguing story set around the latter stages of Victorian England. A wonderful period for any storyteller as it offers the opportunity to tap in to that wonder and mystery of discovery and scientific breakthrough.

Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale all feature. There's also fine performances from the largely unknown Scarlett Johansson and the highly effective David Bowie.

"Every magic trick has three parts, or acts..." So begins the narration by the grand old master and wizardly sage Michael Caine.
"The first part is called "The Pledge". The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call "The Prestige"."

What follows is a tale of friendship broken by the desire to become the finest magician in London. A desperate tale of lost love, death and the single-minded desire to perform the ultimate trick - The Transported Man. The ultimate in wizadry; the disappearance followed by the reappearance moments later in a completely different location.

I enjoyed the film and its complexities such that they were. I enjoyed the performances although Bale's mockney accent started to grate a little. Jackman was excellent and Caine was, well, Michael Caine. As we so often see these days his performance was that of the wise old man. Johansson, I confess she was the reason I began watching, was beautiful. She really does consume the screen. Breathtakingly attractive and a real throwback to the movie star glamour of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

I'd highly recommend this film. It's a reasonable Sunday night escape and at 2 hours isn't as long as some of the films I'd watched recently.

Read some more opinion at Rotten Tomatoes and some detail at IMDB.

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