The Prestige

<em>The Prestige</em>

Christopher Nolan helped refine the gimmick thriller with Memento, in which Guy Pearce starred as a man with short-term memory loss trying to find his wife’s killer in a story that unfolded entirely in reverse. That film was all about disconnects between perception and reality, mind and the material world. Nolan has made a couple of more conventional genre pictures since then (Insomnia and Batman Begins), but his engrossing, fascinating The Prestige marks a decisive return to form. It’s a film about two magicians, once part of the same act, holding a mutual grudge. Each goes to extraordinary lengths trying to disrupt the other’s career in a story that is, itself, full of illusion and misdirection. The result, revamped substantially for the screen from a novel by Christopher Priest, goes deep, using its source material as an excuse to ruminate on identity and obsession in a turn-of-the-century milieu that’s cocked slightly to one side of actual history. The despair Nolan finds at the heart of his story is positively existential, but the film is still a lot of fun. It’s that rare thing in multiplex movies, an entertaining star vehicle with lots of flash and style—and a philosophy.

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