Rarely has this girl seen a movie with such a fascinating
plot alongside so much eye-candy. If you had told me a year
ago that I'd be seeing a film starring Hugh Jackman, Christian
Bale, and David Bowie, I'd have thought, "Yeah, right. And where's
it showing -- the back of my eyelids at midnight?"
But luckily the movie exists, and it's out at your local cineplex,
ready to be enjoyed. The plot is fascinating; the director does
his thang with panache; the acting's superb; the settings and
costumes are even top notch. I don't really have any complaints,
except that a couple of birds die in the film. Dead birds: not
high on Laura's list of favorite things.
Here's the lowdown. Or, as low as it's going to get without
me revealing any of the ending's AMAZING PLOT TWISTS ™. Rupert
(Hugh Jackman) and Alfred (Christian Bale) start out as friends
and co-conspirators in the dark world of 19th-century illusionists,
where what brings in audiences is a new trick, and where new
tricks might well get you killed. That's not just because many
of these illusions are dangerous to perform; there's also a
world of perennial backstabbing and one-upmanship behind the
scenes, as magicians compete for audiences and funding.
But a mistake from Alfred dissolves their friendship into
a deadly feud, as each tries to steal the other's secrets, and,
perhaps, the other's life. The key trick in this feud is one
called "The Transported Man," in which a man leaves point A
and appears at point B faster than it should be humanly possible
to move between two points -- not to mention that the audience
doesn't see the man make that journey.
The film is based on a 1996 novel of the same title by Christopher
Priest. In a lesser director's hands, this could have made for
an entertaining, if a bit dull, period mystery piece. But director
Christopher Nolan (who you may remember from such films as Batman
Begins and Memento) has a flair for all things
dark, twisted, and angsty, and he delivers again on this film.
The plot piles trick upon trick, disguise upon disguise, and
twist upon twist as viewers wonder "How did he do that?"
Nolan provides just enough information, however, that the viewer
never gets lost, or so confused as to be frustrated. The hints
and misdirections are tantalizing, never annoying.
Nolan also gravitates toward tales in which identities get
manipulated, shift, and even buckle under the pressure of obsessive
desire. The Prestige is, in many ways, quite similar
to Batman Begins. Each outlines the toll of obsessive
commitment to an ideal, and the urge to escape the normal boundaries
of human identity and become something more.
And in both films, the way to accomplish this is a lot of
hard work and some illusion, with, perhaps, a dash of magic
thrown in. In Nolan's world, to quote Tesla in the film, "Man's
grasp exceeds his reach." The impossible becomes merely the
Allow me to wax rhapsodic on the joys of David Bowie briefly.
I wrote him a haiku.
O David Bowie
Your brilliance outshines us all
As does your hawtness.
I was raised on films like The
Dark Crystal, Legend, and Labyrinth,
and David Bowie has a special place in my heart. His leather-clad
glam crooner Jareth the Goblin King has, to no small degree
I think, influenced my personal predilections in men. Hence,
I was very excited to see Bowie in this film. Though his Nikola
Tesla does not drip liquid sex, as did Jareth, Bowie delivers
an understated and intense performance as the obsessive, perfectionist
scientist. Not to mention he nails his accent.
I didn't actually suspect that Bowie had such versatility
as an actor, but, there you go. As a side note for those of
you as scientifically illiterate as myself, Nikola Tesla was
a real turn-of-the-century scientist, credited with many brilliant
innovations as well as some crackpot theories.
I have no haikus for Hugh Jackman or Christian Bale. I hope
that they don't read this and feel left out. I would like to
say that Jackman is likely the best combination of sexiness
and serious acting chops that Hollywood can offer right now.
I rarely look at a man's back and think, "Wow, he's hot." Backs
just don't do it for me. But Jackman's back is special. And
Jackman's performance, at turns cruelly self-satisfed and boyishly
disarming, is truly excellent. Similar props for Bale. His back
doesn't measure up, but his character Alfred has a low-class,
obsessed smarminess that subtly, but effectively, munches on
This movie is a good time, especially if you enjoy a film
that leaves you scratching your head a bit. I had fun during
my drive home trying to sort out the revelations of the last
fifteen minutes. It's also a well-directed, well-acted, well-costumed,
well-scenery-ified film. With David Bowie in it.
What more could you want? And if you like dead birds, you'll
be extra happy.