The second of the two magic movies of 2006, "Prestige" is based on the novel by Christopher Priest, and is directed by Christopher Nolan, who is following up his successful "Batman Begins" here. The film follows magicians Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), who are assistants to a more famed magician.
Early in the picture, Rupert's wife, Julia (Piper Perabo) passes away when a trick goes wrong, and Rupert believes that Alfred is the cause of the accident. As a result, Rupert vows revenge against his former friend and colleague. The two start a campaign against each other, landing blows that cause harm both physically and professionally.
As they both look to their mentor (Michael Caine, terrific) for advice, they struggle to reach the peak and find that one trick that puts the one over the other in the quest for bigger audiences. They become obsessed with outdoing the other at any cost, including Alfred driving away his wife (Rebecca Hall) and Rupert turning his assistant (Scarlett Johansson) into a spy - a move that backfires on him.
The film jumps back-and-forth in time, and yet Nolan keeps the twisty story straightforward and coherent, which is no surprise from the director of "Memento". Technically, this is a gorgeous film, with remarkable production design, rich cinematography and some utterly haunting imagery. Unlike "The Illusionist", the tricks in "The Prestige" aren't quite as reliant on CGI and what CGI is used here is of high quality.
"Prestige" also wins in the performance catagory, as both Bale and Jackman give passionate, intense efforts that are engaging. The only actor who doesn't make much of an impression here is, surprisingly, Johansson, who gets swept aside in a performance that's too low-key. David Bowie provides a great little supporting turn as Nikola Tesla. The film is a tad overlong at 128 minutes, but the fierce performances and compelling plot keep the interest for the majority of the running time.
VIDEO: "The Prestige" is presented by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Aside from some a couple of slight instances of edge enhancement and artifacting, this was a beautiful transfer. Sharpness and detail remained mostly marvelous, as the gorgeous details of Nathan Crowley ("Batman Begins")'s production design and Wally Pfister ("Memento")'s cinematography can certainly be appreciated in this transfer. No print flaws were spotted and, aside from a couple of minor issues, the film looked clean. Colors looked accurately presented, with no smearing or other faults. Black level also remained strong throughout.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was often dialogue-driven, although some of the more intense sequences really brought the surrounds to life, with various dancing around the listing space. Audio quality was terrific, as effects packed a punch and dialogue remained crisp and clear, with no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: A 19-minute "making of" documentary that, unfortunately, doesn't go into the kind of detail one would hope. There are some tidbits on character, story and production, but I'd have hoped for more than a basic overview of the making of the film. Also included are still galleries.
Final Thoughts: A terrific tale of revenge and obsession, "The Prestige" is powered by two top performances from Bale and Jackman. The DVD presentation offers very good audio/video quality, but comes up a little short in the extras department. Still, recommended.
The Film B+