Prestige’ An Enchanting Affair

Jeremy Gordon

In the opening moments of The Prestige, the three acts of a magic trick are explained: the pledge, the turn and the prestige. In the pledge, something ordinary is presented to the audience; in the turn, that ordinary something is made to do something extraordinary; finally, in the prestige, the audience is amazed as the ordinary thing returns to its original state, the trick coming full circle.

It isn’t much surprise that the movie follows the same progression. At first, we are introduced to a typical conflict: Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are two competing magicians whose rivalry escalates into hatred and violence following a tragedy in which both men are involved. Each man tries to outdo the other by stealing the other’s tricks, inventing new ones and ruining each other’s lives.

Every plot twist is expertly set up by director Christopher Nolan, who brilliantly weaves flashbacks and present-day scenes together.

As the movie goes on, each character changes dramatically. Borden, first presented as abrasive and rash, becomes sympathetic – if not colder – whereas Angier, charming and warm at first, becomes angry and obsessed with ruining Borden. In the end, the line between protagonist and antagonist blurs to the point where it is impossible to tell the two apart.

The cohesiveness of the movie hinges on a somewhat ridiculous twist; it is possible to disregard the film because of its preposterousness, but in the context of the movie’s themes, it is acceptable. This explanation is a cop out, because every “poor” decision can be rationalized by the themes of the movie, but as a character says, there is no point to explaining the trick to the audience, because once they find out, they won’t care. In that sense, the movie succeeds because it cannot be explained, and while that may be lazy writing, the intricacy of the plot makes it worthwhile.

– Jeremy Gordon