Author: Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Michael Cane
Release Date: 2006
Genre: drama, mystery, sci-fi
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG-13 for violence and disturbing images
Age Group: 14+
Every magic act has three parts: the pledge (where something apparently ordinary is shown), the turn (when something extraordinary happens), and the prestige (when the ordinary thing is brought back). Or so Cutter claims.
Two young magicians, Robert Angier (the showman) and Alfred Borden (the gifted illusionist) are friends and partners on stage, working under the main magician. One night, something goes horribly wrong, and the two men are forever set against each other.
One rises to success and fame, then the other. They are constantly fighting to find out each other's secrets. Sometimes, it seems as though they will go to any ends to find out the methods of those three parts.
But what happens when you find out that they've both been living their acts? That the story itself has a pledge, a turn, and a prestige?
Word of Warning
Allow me to begin by explaining that while many of these things are present in the movie and the story, they are not present. It's incredibly hard to explain, but some of the more difficult things are not what they appear (this is a movie about magic shows, after all). This does not detract from the bad things that do happen, but it does make some things that seemed horrible much less serious. Little more can be said without risking majorly spoiling the movie, and that's something I absolutely do not want to do with this one.
- People drink. There are a few scenes where characters are drunk, all portrayed in a negative light.
- Multiple people drown during magic tricks, apparently gone wrong.
- A young girl's future is threatened.
- A husband kisses his wife's calf during a trick, discretely but noticeably.
- Husband and wife kiss passionately, fall onto bed, scene cuts.
- A bird is killed during a magic trick, its crushed body is shown.
- A man tries to drown himself, does not carry through. A woman hangs herself, we see her limp body hanging by a rope around her neck.
- Someone mutters "Oh my God" but it sounds more like a prayer and less like a disrespectful use of His name.
- Man is shot in the hand, screams in pain, fingers are missing in a later view. Another man is shot in the arm, while quite a few are shot in the abdomen later on (and die).
- Women in magic shows wear provocative clothing complete with short skirts, tight waists, and very low necklines (think circus performer).
- A man falls, breaking his leg (we hear the crunch)
- Implication that a man is cheating on his wife. This is later confirmed, sort of. We get a scene of a couple in bed together fully clothed, nothing happens and the scene is quick, only meant to share information and nothing more.
- Man is captured, nailed into a coffin, and buried alive but given the opportunity of escape via blackmailing his partner.
- Various things (objects, animals, people) are "electrocuted".
- A man is sentenced to death and hung. We see the floor fall out, his body drops, no movement, his neck apparently broken.
- Man chops off fingers with a chisel.
At the end of the movie, I stared at the screen for a good ten minutes, shocked. Calculating what I had just seen. Processing, going over the story again, seeing the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. Heartbroken. Impressed. In awe.
It's a movie that is incredible the first time, and I suspect absolutely brilliant the second time. It's the kind of movie that can, and should be watched at least twice.
It was well done. How could it not be, with such a director working with that cast?
But it was more than well done. This is one of the few movies out there today, created in the last ten years, that is genuinely a work of art.