While the narrative contrivances fall apart when placed under rigorous scrutiny, the film still works. Nolan's study of rivalry & obsession is compelling enough, but is more compelling in its exploration of the filmmaker's own aesthetic approach. His obsession with doubling; his need for twists; his habit of demystifying fantasy through a lens of the mundane; all find an expression in this surprisingly personal work.
This is quite possibly Nolan's most underrated film and everybody in this film is amazing. A true thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through and even leaves you thinking long after the end credits roll.
This is far from as smart and serious as Nolan likes to fancy it is, but still a good bit of fun. Once you start going from journal, to journal, and revealing a secret inside another secret - it becomes predictable and repetitive. But again, aside from these (expected) flaws - it is has some beautiful sequences and exciting performances.
THE PRESTIGE owes an acknowledged favor to the Quay Brothers—intricately designed, the tone and montage function like clockwork. This was Nolan's last 'psychological thriller' before transforming into unrepentant Hollywood showman (INCEPTION, INTERSTELLAR). Themes of obsession and revenge muscle past romantic subplots. Wally Pfister's camera captures the finest details. And what a treat to watch David Bowie as Tesla.
Perhaps I was watching too closely, because I found out early that fatuous, idiotic and presumingly deep mystery in which Nolan hung and ultimately killed this promising duel of magicians. The whole thing was another ludicrous, cheap trick that some of the most easily impressionable minds consider a contemporary masterwork, but they were all deluded by a moody atmosphere and some capable actors.
To be honest I thought this was kind of phony and confusing. As they were reading each other's diaries, the order of the scenes was a bit hard to follow... and the film sort of appeared to be repeating itself: they kept sabotaging the acts, founding new venues to perform and so on. Nevertheless there were some nice moments too, but I wasn't wowed by the film, nor was I that intrigued by its mysteries.
If I'm right about my interpretation of this film, it is much deeper than people give it credit for... regardless, analysis coming soon after compiling some notes and engaging in a more focused second viewing...