The Prestige surprised me like no other film has since The Usual Suspects. The entire film plays out like a good bit of misdirection, slight of hand and illusion, with some pseudo-science thrown in for good measure.
Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman, X-Men) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale, Batman Begins) are rival magicians, both inspiring to be the best the world has ever seen. They began as partners, working together as assistants to an established magician, but when a trick goes terribly wrong, their relationship is forever changed. When each man sets out on his own, their rivalry grows as fast as their individual careers, with each of them suspicious of the other, and always striving to learn the other’s secrets. The question is, who will win in the end, and what will be the cost of victory?
I love a good mystery, and The Prestige certainly delivers on that front. With a non-linear storyline, the film jumps around just enough to keep viewers guessing, but not so much to make it confusing. The characters are compelling, and I honestly wasn’t sure who I wanted to win, as the magicians and their supporting characters are multi-faceted, and most of the film had played out before I began to lean toward considering one of them a villain.
The characters work so well thanks to the actors’ performances. Jackman and Bale are excellent as the competing magicians, and they’re supported by strong showings from Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules) as Angier’s mentor and assistant, David Bowie (The Last Temptation of Christ) as mysterious scientist Nikola Tesla and Andy Serkis (King Kong). Leading ladies Scarlett Johansson (Lost In Translation) and Piper Perabo (The Cave) hold their own as love interests for the magicians, but didn’t bring anything special to their roles.
Of course, the film is not without its faults. The biggest for me was its length; The Prestige drags on a bit toward the end, as the final twists play out. It’s not at all that the twists aren’t rewarding, but rather that there’s a feeling that the film dawdles toward the finish. With the raging obsessions of the protagonists, it would be been nice to feel an inexorable push to the end, in line with their desires to destroy each other.
Still, The Prestige is a well-crafted period piece, and it tells a compelling, mysterious tale of rivalry, obsession and its consequences. When the credits roll, prepare to discuss the film with those who shared the viewing experience. It’s that kind of movie.
So, how’s the DVD?
The Prestige is presented on a single disc, in 2.35:1 widescreen format. It looks really good. Much of the film is set in darkness, in gloomy theatres, back alleys and countryside, and it’s all very well presented, with deep blacks and solid contrast. For the most part the picture is sharp, with good detail, but there are a few moments that appear just a bit on the soft side. That’s a minor flaw, and considering the complete lack of artifacts and compression issues, I’m happy with the transfer.
The main menu is animated and scored.
English audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and it sounds as good as the video looks. While the film is heavy on dialogue, there are plenty of moments that include effects spread around the soundstage, and the overall sound is very atmospheric. The film’s score fills things out nicely, and dialogue is always clear. The best moments are of course related to the magic and science of the film, but you’ll like what you’re hearing from start to finish.
Audio is also available in French and Spanish in Dolby Digital 2.0. Subtitles are offered in English, French and Spanish.
Considering the solid video and audio presentations, it’s a shame this release of The Prestige didn’t follow through in the special features department. What’s here is interesting, but there should have been so much more.
The main featurette is The Director’s Notebook: The Cinematic Sleight of Hand of Christopher Nolan, which is divided up into five parts: Conjuring the Past, The Visual Maze, Metaphors of Deception, Tesla: The Man Who Invented the 20th Century and Resonances. Pretty neat stuff, but it only left me wanting more.
There’s also a production photo gallery, entitled The Art of The Prestige. But that’s it.
The Prestige is an excellent film, marred only by a third act that dawdles just a little too much. This DVD offers up great video and audio presentations, but the small amount of bonus material makes this one a candidate for double-dipping. So if you care about the extras, hold out for the special edition.