Movie Review: The Prestige

Are you watching closely?

Every magic trick has three acts. The Pledge, where the magician promises to amaze. The Turn, where the magician does something ordinary, and makes it extraordinary. That’s not what makes a magician great though, the power of a magician lies not in his trick, but in his secret. It isn’t enough make something disappear, but you have to bring it back. That is the third act: The Prestige.

Two men have been pursuing this prestige their entire career. However, one night, a terrible event happens, and these two partners become enemies. They become obsessed with the quest of having the greatest act, the greatest prestige a magician can obtain. And in the 1890s, these feats can be quite… dangerous.

The two men, Robert and Alfred, go back and forth, sabotaging people, tricks, and more… For the goal of defeating the other. This looks to go on forever, until one day, a trick is performed… But is it really a trick in the first place? Is it real? Has science made real magic possible?

Again I ask…
Are you watching closely?

Things I liked
To be blunt, the movie’s setting and tone is a dark one. Not because it is frightening, but because of the plot. Robert and Alfred are dead set on beating the other for the purposes of revenge, ambition, and pride. Man’s natural depravity is shown here, and the consequences of that sin is never something uplifted or shown to be admired.

Cutter, the engineer behind hundreds of tricks is one who stands out as the light of reason in the film. He warns both men what this obsession will do to them. He understands the mind of the performers. “They are magicians. Men who live by dressing up simple and plain truths to shock. To amaze… Their life itself, is a lie.” It is worth mentioning, he is not without guilt though. As scripture says, those who know good and do not do it, to them it is sin. He often assists in their tricks, and raising the stakes, even when he knows it will ultimately destroy them.

One man makes an enormous sacrifice for his daughter.

This movie is set in the late 1800s. Magic is more than just a hobby, it is a career. I enjoyed the historical accuracy of the movie, having done reading on the history of magic. The filmography was artistically done, and the story is masterfully written.

Things I didn’t like
Because of the risky business of tricks in that time period, and the obsession each has to defeat another… There violence of a… realistic nature. Not huge body counts like in war movies, but little things, which raise the stakes all throughout the movie.
We see two people drown, two hung, one a suicide. There are corpses shown. A man is shot nearly point blank.
Sometimes machinery is manipulated to damage the magicians, or the volunteers. We see broken legs, bloodied fingers, lost fingers, and a few dead birds.

The stage assistants wear clothes which are immodest for the purpose of distracting the audience. One man is unfaithful in his marriage. Kissing is shown.

There is one guy consistently drunk who plays a major part of the movie.

Cursing includes h—, b——, d—, And God’s name is used in vain.

Closing Thoughts
“You’re not afraid to get your hands dirty anymore, are you?”
This is asked of one of the magicians after a particularly horrid act.

After watching this movie, the puzzles to unravel were many. The twist at the end was truly spectacular, and one of the best endings I have seen in a long time. It was odd, not to have a hero to root for, nor have an antagonist to despise. Neither men were worth emotional attachment of concern or glory, and it was done intentionally so.
After taking a while to mull over the movie, I have come to the conclusion, if anything, The Prestige is like a magic trick itandof itself.
It looks complicated. It looks stunning. It promises to be amazing, and quite honestly, it is.

But there really is just one simple theme, and is captured in this quote

“The audience knows the truth: The world is simple. It is miserable all the way through”

When you pull back the curtain of the complex plot and twisting script…
The Prestige is gone and you find the simple truth. All you are left with is a bloodied trail full of suffering, selfishness, and obsession. Seeing once again, the things man is willing to do out of pride and selfish ambition. Reminding us why it is so important to…

“Let nothing be done out of selfish ambition or vain conceit  but in humility let each esteem others better than himself.”
Philippians 2:3

(Note, much of the content of the movie cannot be revealed due to spoiling the plot, I have done my best to include everything which is of note or concern without giving the story away. Be aware though, the content is only partially complete.)

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Prestige

  1. I believe the movie you are looking for is "The Illusionist" Directed by Neil Burger. I personally haven't seen it, but have heard the movie, The presitge, is much better and engaging than the other. If you see it, you'll have to let me know what you think. :)

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