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Monday, January 15, 2007

The Prestige: a late and simplistic review 

The important lesson to take from The Prestige is that magicians are evil and should all be destroyed.

I liked it.

The Lovely One and I went to see this movie on Friday night (it beat out Rocky Balboa because it was slightly cheaper, and slightly closer. I also guessed correctly that the cheap theatre would make me sit through fewer ads, and I was right. There was one trailer and zero ads before the feature. Explain to me again why I go to first-run theatres?).

It's going to be very hard to avoid spoiling the movie, but then, I will say that I figured out the major "secret" of the film about 2/3rds of the way through, and it impaired my appreciation not a bit.

I think I can say without spoiling the film that it annoyed me when Tesla was made out as some sort of Deus ex Machina magical mad scientist, but that the film totally repaid that betrayal by properly exploring the consequences of his magic box. I can also say that key elements of the story (based on a novel by Christopher Priest and published in 1995) bear interesting resemblances to the plot of the 1990 NFB animated short To Be.

I do not go too far when I suggest that everything interesting about the Tesla box was presaged (not to suggest cribbed) in the NFB short.

But I liked the film, even though it depicted, ultimately, awful people doing awful things. It was as if a proper revenge tragedy had spun out of control: what if Hamlet's revenge was unjustifiable? What if he had only knocked Claudius down, and then their tits for tat had escalated out of hand, ultimately destroying the entire kingdom and everyone they knew? Oh right. That did happen.

When Michael Caine is playing the good guy, you know you're in a bad place.

Everyone in the film acted their tuckuses off, but in a good way. The scenery was unchewed and pretty.

Christopher Nolan directed the whole thing, and he of Memento fame managed to use his old tricks of playing with time, space, and plot deceptions without repeating himself. It was good.

For me, I liked it, but maybe not as much as you. I too figured out a couple of the final secrets of the film way beforehand, but for me, it dimmed my appreciation. The thing is, the film kinda /let/ me get there ahead of the film itself because it was way, way too slow. Perhaps radical surgery -- like, about 30 minutes or so -- should have been cut to move things along faster.
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