Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called "the Pledge." The magician shows you something ordinary, but of course it probably isn't. The second act is called "the Turn." The magician makes his ordinary something do something extraordinary. Now if you're looking for the secret... you won't find it, that's why there's a third act called, "the Prestige."People had warned me, "If you don't see it soon, someone will spoil the ending for you." Well, mistakenly, I took this to mean that I would be shocked and amazed at some grand twist in The Prestige... but about five minutes in, I guessed half of what was going on and by an hour in, I had figured it all out.
Despite the fact that I was more than a little disappointed that the ending was something I had anticipated, I quite enjoyed this film. Christian Bale seems to get better as an actor the more he works, whereas Hugh Jackman was fine, but seems to be on the path to becoming a character actor. Michael Caine was his usual sparkling self, narrating with a great lower-class accent and lulling us into the belief that he's going to reveal secrets for us rather than mask them. Of the supporting ladies, Scarlett Johansson and her tight clothing do not dominate the movie (though as always, there's too much of both for my taste), there wasn't enough Piper Perabo (if you haven't seen Imagine Me & You, I suggest you rent it), and I was definitely intrigued by Rebecca Hall (who is apparently in Starter for Ten that I posted about earlier). Did I mention that David Bowie plays Nikolas Tesla? Weird.
The cinematography was my favorite part -- Nolan also directed Batman Returns (another film where Christian Bale is lurking in the shadows) and while I thought that was so dark that I couldn't see the fight scenes (which were evidently bad and spliced to bits by scissor-happy editors), I enjoyed the darkness that lingered in the frames of The Prestige. It's a movie about dueling magicians in Victorian London... there has to be a hint of sinister murkiness about it -- you're willingly handing over money to be deceived. More interesting than real magic is the ingenuity (and devoted obsession) that goes into an expertly crafted deception. Ultimately, you come to see that this movie -- like a magic trick -- must be appreciated for the skill of its execution rather than any depth to it. The Nolan brothers (while Christopher Nolan directed, he wrote the screenplay with his brother, Jonathan) did a fine job and I will pass on the advice that I received -- go see it before someone spoils the ending for you, but be aware that the ending isn't the only reason why you should go.
Here, you'll find A.O. Scott's review for the NY Times -- rest assured, he doesn't spoil the ending for you, either.