Sunday, October 29, 2006

When Batman and Wolverine get into a pissfest

Where oh where do I begin writing about Christopher Nolan's The Prestige? My brother and my best friend both summed it up best: "Nakakapagod." As Raqs described it, the entire movie was like a string of climaxes, having you holding your breath and wondering what was going to come next, only to plunge you back into suspense and leaving you as dumbfounded as you were a few minutes ago. I guess that was precisely Nolan's point: he conjured up this magic act of a movie to stump as all.

At face value, The Prestige is a film about magic. The term "prestige" was coined by author Jonathan Priest, who wrote the novel on which the movie is based. It comes from "prestidigitation" or sleight of hand. Priest's invented term refers to the last of 3 acts of a magic trick: first there's the pledge, where the magician shows you an ordinary object; then comes the turn, where the magician does something extraordinary with the object; and finally, the prestige, where the magician shows you something "you've never seen before". But beyond being a movie about disappearing acts and escape tricks, The Prestige tells the tale of the heated competition-turned-obsessive-quest-for-revenge between rival magicians Angier (Hugh Jackman, with X-men abs and pecs intact) and Borden (Christian Bale, radiating Bruce Wayne sex appeal through grimy make-up and even the rattiest costumes). Angier is the showman, but Borden is the true talent. A deeply personal grudge sparks the enmity between the 2, with each trying not only to outdo the other, but bring him down. Their feud escalates to a level of madness that is both frightening and mesmerizing, and the various twists and turns in the plot are very much like sleights of hand that keep you on the edge of your seat, and completely captivated. As Borden's catch phrase goes, "Are you watching closely?" Well, with actors like Bale and Jackman, hell yeah.

The cast delivered solid acting all around, which is not surprising considering that the 2 protagonists (and alternately antagonists) are not just your run-of-the-mill Hollywood hunks, but talented actors who happen to be hunks. Jackson's charisma, with its odd mix of animal magnetism and dapper savoir faire, suited his turn as the flashy but cold-hearted Angier, while Bale's intensity (hot, hot, HOT) made his Borden compelling despite his seeming cruelty. The supporting cast, led by the always reliable, always classy Sir Michael Caine, was as outstanding as the 2 leads... although Scarlett Johansson should really reconsider accepting roles that insist on showcasing her ample bosom more than her acting prowess. The surprise performance of the movie came from an unrecognizable David Bowie, whose turn as the eccentric inventor Tesla was understated and convincing. There's one guy who can quit his day job.

But make no mistake, no one else owned this movie but Chris Nolan. Anyone who has seen his breakthrough film Memento can detect his signature style of breaking away from chronological sequence, choosing to tell his story in cleverly interwoven scenes from different points in the time line. In some parts of The Prestige, Angier and Borden read from each other's diaries, and the narration shifts from one magician to another. Flashbacks are used generously as well, to help shed light on a puzzling plot point or remind the audience of something they already saw, but did not apprehend nor comprehend. By the time the conclusion is reached, the viewer is a bit disoriented, short of breath, and already replaying the movie in his head trying to figure out what he missed, and not without the sneaking feeling that he has just been bamboozled. I don't know if that was Nolan's intention, but I certainly exited the cinema feeling as if I'd just watched one long, elaborate magic act.

The Prestige is the kind of film that you'll want to watch a second time to better understand and appreciate what really happened, and how it was pulled off. It's also the kind of film that makes for great dinner conversation and endless debate ("So he was actually the..." "What made her do..." "How come they didn't..."). Watch it with friends who have sharp eyes, calculating minds, and the willingness to suspend disbelief and just let Chris Nolan work his magic on them.

9 Comments:

At Tuesday, October 31, 2006, Anonymous jen ong said...

FINALLY, I've been waiting for you to watch the Prestige. Now I have someone to analyze it with. Hahaha :) When, oh when, will your office get DSL?

 
At Tuesday, October 31, 2006, Anonymous Maddy O said...

I enjoyed the film while I was watching it, but when it was finished I was so annoyed and disappointed by the sheer simplicity (and anticlimactic nature) of the explanations behind the mysteries. In hindsight, though, the film was much like a magic trick. The explanation behind the trick is much less impressive than the trick itself.

 
At Tuesday, October 31, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Mini-me: I've actually gotten accustomed to not having DSL at work. Haha. But yeah, I wish we could have a lengthy discussion about the movie... and about who's hotter, Hugh Jackman or Christian Bale. ;p

Maddy: Very well put. If all the Harry Houdinis and David Blaines of the world revealed their secrets, their awesome tricks wouldn't be half as impressive. There are just some things better left unexplained. :)

 
At Tuesday, November 07, 2006, Anonymous rocky said...

er... the nakakapagod remark is mau's. all the other comments are mine. :) *baka may counterpart ang plagiarism for utterances. :p*

 
At Tuesday, November 07, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Haha, thanks for citing your source. :p

 
At Wednesday, November 08, 2006, Anonymous MoJo said...

Like I told Tommy Tomwong, WATCH JULIAN SCHNABEL'S "BASQUIAT." Bowie stole the show as Andy Warhol. OMG.

I've been a fan since Labyrinth. He scared the ___ out of me in that movie. :)

 
At Wednesday, November 08, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

David Bowie as Andy Warhol? This I gotta see for myself.

 
At Monday, November 13, 2006, Anonymous mae said...

i finally watched it! omg it was just as awesome as i expected it to be...and then some. iv been analyzing it all day long. nicole and i cant stop making theories and talking about the hidden meanings of the prestige, instead of the ones in the play "antigone" which is the topic of the 2000word paper we are supposed to be doing.

 
At Sunday, November 19, 2006, Anonymous MoJo said...

http://img47.exs.cx/img47/4899/bas10.jpg

 

Post a Comment

<< Home