Monday, October 30, 2006

THE PRESTIGE - Christian Bale is ENGLISH!

This review is posted by guest reviewer, Nik, who can usually be found here.

Some people have accused me of being gay for Christian Bale in the past, and chief amongst the accusers myself. And yes, it's true, I am bent for Bale - but there's a jolly good reason. This man simply doesn't get himself involved in anything less that a great movie - his acting performances are always superlative - and the dynamic range of his skills is nothing short of breathtaking. And he has a fucking great body.

That said, I cannot claim that any of these things attracted me to see THE PRESTIGE. In fact, not a single factor in the film's favour weighed on my mind as I collected my ticket from Bina007 at the Odeon West End, since the screening I attended was the "surprise film" of the 2006 London Film Festival, and no-one knew the film title until the opening credits. Before the film, an organiser of the Festival came on stage and asked for suggestions as to what the film might be. A few people did shout "The Prestige". I shouted "Debbie Does Dallas - or am I in the wrong cinema?" That anecdote has nothing to do with this review, I just thought I'd tell you it so that you could fully appreciate my gutter comedy, and how I added to the audience's cultural experience that evening.

But back to the point, it came as no real surprise to me that the surprise film was THE PRESTIGE, and that it turned out to be as good as I'd hoped. After all, a surprise film has to meet the highest standards of excellence so as not to disappoint or alienate a broad cross-section of the audience. And I can assure you, no-one was disappointed.

THE PRESTIGE was, as the magic and illusions it portrayed, captivating from the get-go. The all-star cast including Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman, and even David Bowie wove a magic spell around a talented script - and had the audience on tenterhooks awaiting the next twist, turn, and pitfall of the plot. The musical score, often overused in such dark and sexy thrillers, was subtle as it added to the tension - barely noticeable but used with great impact just as any good accompaniment is.

The plot itself was tense and thick and thrilling - allowing you to suspend disbelief over those aspects that were genuinely counter-historical or a-scientific - because such aspects were genuinely incidental next to the personal tragedy of the two main characters. Two magicians, played by Bale and Jackman respectively - the former twisted by and prisoner to his art - the other equally twisted and darkly obsessed with a past tragedy in his life, and by the jealous rage and anger at his illusionist counterpart whom he blamed for causing it. There is a tangible homoerotic tension between the two - as their obsessions with their art and with each other tear them and their families and their relationships with women apart. One has the impression of an almost Shakespearian pair of star-crossed lovers taking their lives. The passage of their death marked love being the two hour traffic of the film.

And it is the power of the performances of these two, Bale in particular, that makes the movie. It is astounding, looking back at the movie once the final twist has happened, just how incredibly hard Bale's character was to play to make the scenes believeable. His relationship with his wife was characterised by a struggle between loving his art more than her some days - and loving her more his art on others. Imagine the task for an actor to have to say "I love you" and mean it in some scenes, and the same line but not mean it in others - and each time communicate emotionally which it is to the audience. The subtley of that insincerity - and the finesse with which it is portrayed in THE PRESTIGE - is awesome.

This is a very dark movie. It is a world where obsessive love and obsessive hatred meet in equal quantities - a world of illusion where we are constantly left wondering what is real and what is not. Such a world will not be to everyone's tastes - and if you're looking for comedy or a light touch entertainment, go and see BORAT instead. But if you're looking for superlative acting performances - drama, plot, production values and score that is second to none - and a movie experience that will make you want to come back for more - then this is the only show in town. I cannot recommend it any more highly than that, my friends.

Oh, and there's something I should add. Christian Bale is English!!! It's amazing, he speaks like a bloody cockney in this movie! I think it may have been that that finally exorcised the ghost of Patrick Bateman, a ghost that haunted me when I saw BATMAN BEGINS.

THE PRESTIGE played Rome and London 2006. It opened in Singapore, the US, Hong Kong and Malaysia earlier this month. It opens in Brazil, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand and Venezuala on November 2nd, the UK on November 10th, and in France and Australia on Nov 16th. It opens in Finland and Italy on December 22nd and in Estonia, Belgium, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Russia and in the Netherlands in January 2007. Finally, it rolls into Japan on April 21st.

Bina007 adds: Christian Bale has, to my mind, made some shocking movies, not least SHAFT and some mediocre ones, most recently - Harsh Times. But for every mis-step there are a handful of absolute diamonds. THE PRESTIGE is definitely one of them.


  1. Have you seen Bale's abs? And his Phil Collins speech in American Psycho? And even having done so, you can't forgive him for Shaft?