The result is a lopsided yet absorbing movie in which the director is less drawn to his main characters than to those on the periphery.
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Stuffed with hard-working actors, sleek effects and stagy period details, The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan from a script he wrote with his brother Jonathan, is an intricate and elaborate machine designed for the simple purpose of diversion.
Bale and Jackman inject their reliable charisma into two otherwise very cold fish. Okay, I'll say it: If you see only one magic-at-the-turn-of-the-century movie this year, make it this one.
Clearly, director Nolan is aiming for something else. But the delight in sheer gamesmanship that marked his breakout "Memento" doesn't survive this project's gimmickry and aspirations toward "Les Miserables"-style epic passion.
The Prestige does more than focus on magicians. It is so in love with the romance, wonder and ability to fool of stage illusion that it becomes something of a magic trick in and of itself
Audiences might enjoy this cinematic sleight of hand, but the key characters are such single-minded, calculating individuals that the real magic would be to find any heart in this tale.
Many, I suspect, will fall for The Prestige and its blend of one-upsmanship and science fiction. I prefer "The Illusionist," the movie that got here first.
The Prestige isn't art, but it reaps a lot of fun out of the question, How did they do that?
If you can forgive some woeful casting and a plot that is as creakingly thin as an old staircase, you can enjoy director Christopher Nolan's The Prestige.
Has its moments.