DIRECTOR: Neil Burger
May Contain Spoilers!
What a disappointment. Maybe it’s because it was being compared, favourably this time, to Christopher Nolan’s, The Prestige (2006), 2006’s years over magic movie, which I absolutely loved, but at the time, the comparisons where less fair. But as the years have passed, many have seen this as been overlooked and overshadowed by Nolan’s movie and it was these comments which drove to me finally give this one a chance. But sadly, I needed have bothered.
It is the lesser of the two films by a long chalk. The only real element which I liked and one which sets it apart from most films of the last 80 years is its style, filmed and mastered to mimic the style of silent film making of the turn of the 20th century film making, with a sepia tone, though the film is in colour, an over use of vignetting and a gentle flicker as the candle would have done in those days.
The problem is that its internal logic failed, or if it don’t, it was so contrived that I didn’t get it. Major plot twist alert, but only if you can’t see the most blatantly telegraphed twist ever. The plot is simple. Teenager meets a magician and learned his trade. He falls for upper class girl and pair are separated. Her then spends the next 15 travelling the world and when his comes back, he is a renowned magician or illusionist. The pair are reunited but she is to be married to the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), who is planning to overthrow his father for some reason.
The pair then concoct the Illusion of her death in order that the Prince will kill himself and therefore free the two lovers to pursue their romance. This works but the illusions culminate in a ghostly, spiritual manner in which the spectres of the dead are resurrected on stage. This makes no sense unless he drugged the audiences, which may be what he did but that would only work if he actually possessed some form of magical powers.
But either way, the plot was transparent leaving the final scene in which Paul Giamatti, the police inspector who had been pursuing him throughout the film, pieces it all together, in the style of the sixth sense! It failed. Maybe it is just me and that fact that I can’t stand depictions of Vienna on-screen, but it didn’t work for me. The illusions seemed to be pretty clear to me, a series of special effects and that, without any real attempt to explain of demonstrate how they were achieved on-screen, made the whole affair a very hollow one.
The Prestige is the worthy winner of this magic face off. Without a doubt!