The Prestige (2006): “Are you watching closely?”

prestige_ver2One of acclaimed director Christopher Nolan’s best films, The Prestige (2006) is a feat of excellence in both its storytelling and cinematography. Set in turn of the century London, the story follows two rival magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), as they compete with one another to perform the greatest trick of all – with murderous consequences.

The Prestige makes use of a multi-layered, time-twisting narrative to convey its initially quite confusing plot in the most organised way possible. The film switches between different moments in time without much of an indication to the viewer, so one has to ensure that sufficient attention is paid so that the ending has its requisite payoff. But either way, this is one of those films where you probably have to watch it a couple of times to make sense of the Nolan-esque ending, to figure out exactly what he’s trying to tell us.

When I watched this film again recently, I was firstly reminded of how horrible both Bale’s and Jackman’s accents are. Scarlett Johansson’s fake British accent is the only one that is vaguely believable. Secondly, it reminded me of how much I love and adore both David Bowie and Nikola Tesla, who Bowie plays in this film. And thirdly, I was stunned by the cinematography. I think once you’ve seen this film a couple of times and sorted out the plot, the genius of the way the film is visually constructed becomes more and more apparent, as you are able to focus on it more clearly.

The cinematographer, Wally Pfister, makes use of earthy tones throughout The Prestige, giving every scene a realistic and grounded quality. This ensures that in the scenes where magic is happening, the use of bright whites, blues and purples in both the stage lighting and electricity is almost blinding because our eyes have to adjust to the sudden change in brightness and tone. It makes you feel like someone in nineteenth century London might feel, as this amazing Tesla technology is being displayed for the first time; almost painful on the eyes, yet also spellbinding and beautiful in its own potentially destructive way. The framing is also excellent throughout, with many long shots that draw the viewer in to the world of the film, and in some cases, trap them there. Put simply, this is a visually striking film. Each cinematographic choice serves a purpose other than just looking good.

Here are some of my favourite shots from The Prestige. As always, the film is ten times better looking in motion. If you haven’t yet seen The Prestige, I would highly recommend doing so! I’ve mixed the images up a bit, but please be aware of any potential spoilers below if you haven’t yet seen the film.

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3.5/5
Watch the trailer here.

All images sourced from the amazing Evan E. Richards.

Watch this film at Amazon!

38 comments

  1. I have seen the film a couple of times and agree the atmosphere and the ending were electric. I also agree about the slightly dodgy accents however much I adore Wolverine!

    1. Electric is definitely the key word! πŸ™‚ Love that Wolverine though.

  2. So true. I saw this once, loved it, and immediately felt like I needed to see it again. Of course, that was something like four years ago now…

    1. It’s definitely one of those films where you want to watch it again to connect all the puzzle pieces together! πŸ™‚

  3. Love this film! It makes you work hard to keep up with goings-on then rewards you with a brilliant pay-off. Great work Anna, the images really do grasp the film’s wonderful visuality.

    Adam.

    1. Thanks Adam! πŸ™‚ You definitely get rewarded for your attention to this film. I wish I could make a million gifs to show the beauty in motion but that might border on piracy!

  4. great post, and thanks for putting up some lovely pictures. i agree that this is one of Nolan’s best films, and I think it’s fascinating that he was able to make a film work so well with fairly unlikeable characters. I am not a fan of his Batman stuff at all (I just reviewed Batman Begins as I had never seen it), and I find his storytelling unnecessarily convoluted in a ‘look at me, I’m clever’ way, but I did enjoy The Prestige very much, especially Bowie, whose unique profile and voice has generally been used well by cinema (I suspect because he doesn’t do it very often and is rather picky). All that said, though, I think Nolan gives away a big twist too early in the film.

    1. That’s such a good point, Niall – hardly any of the characters are likeable but you still form alliances with them. Interesting about the twist as well! Typical Nolan. I’m going to read the book to see if the twist shows up early as well.

      1. i didn`t know it was a novel

  5. This movie’s a total mind-fuck. But in the best ways possible. Good review.

    1. Totally agreed! πŸ˜€

  6. It makes you wonder why more films can’t be made that are intelligently written, this was outstanding! Loved it. The great writing was also evident in The Dark Knight (2008), but to a lesser extent in his other two Batman films.

    1. Agreed. The writing and dialogue is excellent here. Whereas the general script of The Dark Knight Rises was so, so bad!

  7. I never noticed Jackman and Bale’ accents being bad, but then again I never notice stuff like that ^^ It’s such a great movie and I love Jackman’s performance here, he was fantastic

    1. I agree, I’m not normally a Jackman fan but he’s great in this!

    2. Anonymous · · Reply

      I don’t think Bale even had an accent. He’s from the UK and unless I have a poor ear, he holds the same in interviews as well.
      Jackman, on the other hand, the poor thing, his accent was all over the place.

  8. Love this movie and have watched it a couple of times…to me it is a classic movie which I try to revisit every few years.

    1. I reckon revisiting it every now and then would definitely help solve the mystery of the film! πŸ™‚

  9. Easily one of my favorite Nolan films.

  10. I so need to rewatch this urgently. It’s such a good film.

    1. Definitely! πŸ˜€

  11. Nice post – the cinematography is very good in this film. It’s a while since I watched it (I forgot Bowie was in it!) but remember enjoying it, even though I think Nolan has made better. I also liked The Illusionist which came out in the same year and is set in a similar period, weirdly!

    1. Thanks Stu! πŸ™‚ I’ve never seen The Illusionist but it always puzzles me that they were released around the same time. What do you reckon is Nolan’s best film?

      1. It’s Memento for me – a great film, although I’ve enjoyed everything else he has made.

  12. Seems like we both are after Christopher Nolan’s films this month πŸ˜€ …Just published my own review of Memento and this is another one of my favourite by Nolan. Hope the upcoming Interstellar lives up to its hype!

    1. I can’t wait to see Interstellar! The poster and trailer look pretty impressive.

  13. Great work Anna, I really don’t recall much of The Prestige. Guess that means it’s time to go back and revisit! I love Nolan, so I must have at the very least liked it when I first checked it out. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Tom! πŸ™‚ It’s pretty awesome, definitely worth a revisit! Nolan is about 80% for me. I can’t forgive him for making me fall asleep during The Dark Knight Rises.

  14. This sounds really cool I need to see this! Thank you for bringing this movie to my attention. Great review!

    1. Thanks! πŸ™‚ You have to see this! It’s a total mindbender.

  15. Love love love this film. It’s my favorite Nolan movie. Wish it got as much credit as his other movies! I think it’s far better than Inception. And…. David Bowie rules. : )

    1. I agree, I love this one so much more than Inception! A bit of extra David Bowie is all any film needs!

  16. Is Bale’s British accent really that bad? I mean, the dude is actually British. But I haven’t seen this in ages, so I won’t come right out and disagree with you. I’m glad you like the film, but I thought the ending was stupid. It was a sci-fi ending out of left field in a movie that had tried to be mostly realistic up until that point. It was jarry and a WTF moment for me. I liked The Illusionist more, which came out at roughly the same time.

    1. Yeah, Bale’s cockney slash working class British accent is pretty shonky. Both his and Jackman’s accents drop out from time to time as well. Jackman is way worse though! I kind of liked the way it ended, but it was one of those typical Nolan “the top is still spinning, OMG” endings, which can be annoying. I haven’t seen The Illusionist yet, but it’s definitely on the list! πŸ™‚

  17. It’s been quite a while since I’ve watched this all the way through, but I remember this coming out around the same time as The Illusionist, and I think I liked The Illusionist better…still a good film though. Are Bale’s and Jackson’s accents bad?? Now I want to watch so I can hear! Lol.

    1. I think I need to see The Illusionist now that I’ve heard some good things about it! The accents in this are really quite bad, they tend to drop in and out. Bale’s fake Cockney accent is particularly bad!

  18. […] that most people end up dead upon contact with them. But in all seriousness, the period aspect of The PrestigeΒ (2006) does seem to be pretty realistic, as does the portrayal of magicians/illusionists at the […]

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