Having just been introduced to Christian Bale, via seeing 3:10 to Yuma yesterday, I went in search of another of his films today at the rental store. I'd done a bit of digging on the internet movie data base site I favor (IMDb) before renting "The Prestige", just so I'd be sure and view a good example of his work. However, I did NOT see any spoilers beforehand, so my viewing of this film was completely unsullied by advance knowledge of the plot twists and turns. I won't reveal them here, either. What I do want to discuss are the actor's roles and their portrayals. The plot is up to you, if you have either already seen it, or plan to see it in the future, to decipher and untwist.
Christian Bale, as the turn-of-the-century English magician and Hugh Jackman as his rival, are the two main characters. Supporting them are Scarlett Johannson. as the eye candy assistant on stage for Jackman's character and Michail Caine as his "manager/trick inventor. All did fine jobs with this intricate story and their characters.
Bale's character, Borden, was an obsessed young magician, willing to do just about anything to get ahead in his career. Ditto for Jackman's character, Rupert Angiers. It is difficult to really get into a discussion on their roles without giving away too much of the plot twists, here. There are more twists and turns in this film than a bag of pretzels!
It kept me scratching my head, trying to listen carefully to the dialog, plus visually keep up with events. It didn't help any that the plot line was non-linear (fancy term for "it jumped around chronologically).
We know from the beginning that Borden is in prison, for murdering Angiers. That much is told to us/shown to us from reel #1. But, by film's end, we have no idea who really died for sure or who was really in prison for murder! Apparently from what I've read on other sites, the movie departed quite a bit from the novel's plot line. So, going to the book won't be much help with the film. Scenes jump back and forth from the past to the present, making me crazy, but I stuck with it, mainly due my being determined to figure it out.
Beautifully filmed and costumed, I might add. There are even scenes that take place in Colorado Springs, way back before it became the huge city it is now...a lovely place, nestled up against the front range of the American Rockies. This was where Angiers travelled to secure the trick of all tricks, a Transporter machine from a Russian scientist named Tesla (played by David Bowie, who turns in a fine performance as well). One might ask why a Russian scientist would be in Colorado, which would seem to be a weird place for such a man. He explains to Angiers over lunch that he was exiled to a "retirement", thus he chose this place. Since I happen to love that city myself, it wasn't hard for me to understand his choice, even way back then...a great place to retire.
But, most of the film took place in old theaters in London, where an audience would gather to be amazed by various magicians, much as we go to the movies today.
This is a dark film, not any happiness nor comic relief to be found. Pure drama, which is what I love in films. Nearly all of the characters are tortured by something..either obsessions, or jealousies, or both. The only character that didn't seem to be really troubled was Caine's, as he was content with his role as the man behind the magician.
It is true that towards the end of the film, that things get a bit weird and venture into the not-so-possible. This is essential for the plot, but it does not lie to us, but we know we have to leave the grounded world for the fantasy one, to keep on with it. Still, tho, it's a decent flick, and it did demonstrate that Christian Bales can play a very different role that the one in "Yuma".