These alter egos make sense really only in opposition to each other… It’s this same contrast that makes the film so fascinatingly self-reflexive. The grueling battle of wills between the glib parlor trickster and the grim perfectionist — each of whom resents and envies the other in equal measure — encompasses both halves of the filmmaker’s sensibility and turns The Prestige into an interestingly ambivalent directorial self-portrait.
Explicitly modelled on the pattern of a magic trick, it’s also bound to the rules of the mystery thriller genre; yet the one relies on lingering uncertainty, the other on full disclosure. And in devoting so much room to hollow romantic subplots, the film ends up breaking two of the magician’s cardinal rules: not only does it tell you how it’s all done, it takes so long about it that you’ve got time to look up its sleeves and work it out for yourself.
With his film’s finale note, Nolan attempts to flippantly justify an unresolved and exceptionally nonsensical plot point by telling his audience “You want to be fooled.” What he fails to realize, however, is that cinema’s most compelling trick isn’t simply superficial deception, but the ability to elicit emotional engagement in something that’s inherently artificial—a feat The Prestige, for all its razzle-dazzle duplicity, never pulls off.
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.
I'm of two minds about this, which is possibly appropriate. It's a meticulously constructed and masterful work, but I also find it so clever as to be annoying. I get it - the big reveal is the ultimate prestige, but it also feels like a cheat in a way that a film like The Usual Suspects doesn't. Maybe it comes down to my not caring for the two leads or their characters and that Nolan is cinema's Zuckerburg. 3.5