‘Are you watching closely?’
Unlike Val Kilmer, Christopher Nolan will always be defined by his contribution to the Batman franchise. This does Nolan a huge injustice however, because outside of the DC Comics behemoth, he is responsible for some of the most imaginative and unique films of the last 20 years. Interstellar and Inception might be the most famous, Memento is the critics’ darling but it is The Prestige that I love the most.
Nolan’s 2006 masterpiece tells the story of two rival magicians who are intrinsically bonded through a shared tragedy. Christian Bale gives one of his most human performances as the driven Alfred Borden but Hugh Jackman is at least his equal as the tragic Robert Angier. Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Andy Serkis and David Bowie lead a ridiculously strong supporting cast but it is Bale and Jackman who really shine.
One criticism of The Prestige on release was that it takes too long to reveal its hand or as my wife succinctly put it ‘they tricked me into thinking the film was boring but it turns out it’s actually really interesting.’ When a film is as good as The Prestige though, the journey is just as rewarding as the destination.
One of Christopher Nolan’s great strengths as a director is his ability to craft films that not only stand up to repeated viewings, but are improved by them. The Prestige weaves such a dark and mysterious web that is impossible not to become wrapped up in its many twists and turns and the nuance and layers to the performances of Bale and Jackman are only fully unlocked on the third of fourth time round.
As stated previously, Interstellar may be the most popular, Memento is the critics’ darling, but it is The Prestige that stands proud as the most underrated film in Christopher Nolan’s extensive repertoire. On the surface, a film about magicians may seem antiquated or quaint but in reality, The Prestige is a breathless joy from start to finish.