#51: The Prestige (2006)

When and how did I watch this?

January 27th, 2017, on FandangoNOW.

Had I seen this film already?

Yes.  I don’t remember how or when, but I do remember being confused and bored.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

I remembered the darkness, the turn-of-the-century outfits, and the stage magic.

What do I know about it now?

Let me say outright that Nolan is one of my favorites. However, despite giving The Prestige another ride, and as objectively as possible, I couldn’t quite  lock into this film. Nolan tries to be tricky, to deceive the audience with several brilliant “turns”, but the prestige is lost amidst too many gimmicks to an almost condescending degree. The big reveal is figured out halfway through the film, and the rest of the tricks are either lost or we don’t care. No question, the concept itself is brilliant, and the coloring and pacing are perfect. You can’t go wrong with the talents of Bale/Batman, Caine/Alfred, Jackman/Wolverine, and Johannson/Black Widow in the same film. But I spent so much time trying to follow what was going on – which made sense in the end, but sort of resembled a high school book report in terms of order and presentation – that I never really got a chance to be entertained, to be in awe of the trick, to applause. Fortunately, this is one of the lower ranking Nolan films on this list, so I’ll say mulligan here.

What are some themes in the film?

Pride, revenge, wizardry and magic, family

Did this affect me personally?

The boy figuring out the canaries’ fate was a nice “aha” symbolic moment later in the film.  There were actually several of these, but this one stood out to me. I wasn’t emotionally moved at all, though, despite efforts to highlight the family/child aspect.

Why is this ranked #51?

Nolan fanboys have propelled this far higher than it should be. The spectacular cast and memorable costuming and effects are helpful.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She did, at my request. I tend to get confused in films like this, and she was a nice sounding board for me.  We seemed to draw the same conclusions about it.

Would I watch it again?

Only if asked to, but I wouldn’t for any entertainment purposes.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

People who enjoy this style and the art of magic might find this more entertaining than I did.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

It does, but I didn’t see its ranking as justified at all.  This could easily fall off the list and be replaced with movies like Oceans Eleven (2001), which is equally clever and dizzying but certainly more fun to watch. Despite my criticisms, I doubt I’ll forget the film, and it could make an impression on those who might be invested in blind revenge or the workaholic who sacrifices duty for family, redeeming the film as a sort of moral treatise.  Additionally, the film has numerous cinematic moments and beautiful frames, many of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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