The Prestige

Rated 4.0

Very early on, The Prestige has multiple voice-over narrators drawing us into an increasingly elaborate network of flashbacks concerning the overlapping personal histories of two magicians (played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) and the events leading up to, and then beyond, the death of one of them in an incident during a stage performance. But it’s not until we’re nearly halfway through this two-hour movie labyrinth (from writer-director Christopher Nolan and his screenwriting brother Jonathan, the creators of Memento) that its unfolding dramatic fantasy becomes something more compelling than an array of clever curiosities. Even with that semblance of murder-mystery hanging over the proceedings, the emerging double portrait of the rival magicians doesn’t really catch fire until we begin to see that the rivalry is only part of the story. The Prestige demands alertness to detail and a kind of wary patience from its audience, and it rewards that attentiveness with a darkly poetic vision that is fascinating, paradoxical and—seemingly—ever-expanding.