Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie
Director: Christopher Nolan
“The Prestige” opens with Robert Angier (Jackman) drowning in a water tank, watched by arch-rival magician Alfred Borden (Bale). Borden is subsequently found guilty of his murder and is sentenced to death. While in prison he is approached by an aristocrat’s solicitor (Roger Rees) who offers to pay Borden for his tricks, intimating that the money would go towards looking after his daughter.
And – with this being a Christopher Nolan (“Memento”, “Insomnia”) film – we backtrack in time to turn-of-the-nineteenth century London where Borden and Angier are getting their start as illusionists under the watchful eye of Cutter (Caine). An illusion goes wrong and Angier’s wife, Julia, drowns. Angier pins the blamely firmly at the door of Borden and so begins a lifelong war between the two illusionists who not only aim to sabotage each other’s careers but also try to out-do each other by performing the ultimate trick: The Disappearing Man.
With Cutter by his side the showy Angier becomes obsessed with working out how Borden performs it, eventually leading him to renegade scientist Tesla (Bowie). Meanwhile Borden now has a wife and child and his career is taking off. The stakes are high and both men become obsessed with being the best – but how far will they go?
Bale and Jackman are the stars with perfectly-measured performances. Caine and Bowie perform well despite being overshadowed and Scarlett Johansson puts in another strong turn as the mistress. Nolan handles things expertly as you might expect, even managing to pull off the arguably slightly-over-scripted ending. But, even so, the twists, turns and surprises make this a remarkably entertaining flick and arguably Nolan’s best to date.