Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Prestige

2006, US, directed by Christopher Nolan

After his intelligent re-working of the Batman mythology in Batman Begins, The Prestige is a more conventional period drama, notwithstanding the narrative fragmentation that occasionally recalls Nolan's Memento. For the most part, Nolan's storytelling skills are strong enough to overcome a plot that hangs, crucially, on one last-minute revelation, although he can't entirely avoid the sense that the film is concerned more with mechanics than it is with emotion, a problem that parallels the kind of complex magic trick at the core of the film.

Although it's simply an accident of timing that the two films were released around the same time - and in some ways the films have quite different concerns - it is illustrative to make the comparison with Neil Burger's The Illusionist, where final act revelations don't detract from the emotional journey we have taken with the characters; Burger's re-creation of a specific time in Viennese history is also more richly atmospheric (perhaps because he shot his film on location in the Czech Republic; the backlot sets of The Prestige, while fun, can't quite compete with authentic architecture).

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States