Last year, there was a bit of a hoopla made out for Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige… A tale of dueling illusionists at the turn of the century. The castings of Christian Bale and Michael Caine made me think Nolan was tied up with his Bat-crew. Hugh Jackman being cast gave my fan-boy heart a lift. Wolverine vs. Batman! In turn of the century London! Bloody good show!
So when I read Stephen King lauding the film in Entertainment Weekly late last year, it just refreshed my desire to see this film and it’s “outstanding twist of an ending”.
(EDIT NOTE: King lauded The Illusionist. I suspected this and had rented the movie specifically because of it. It was my brother who made a big deal about The Prestige‘s twist ending)
A few weeks back, I watched The Illusionist with Edward Norton and after my older brother watched it — he told me it wasn’t shit compared to The Prestige. “There is a surprise ending. It’s awesome. I saw it in theaters, you have gotta get it when it comes out on DVD.”
Me and Michael usually can enjoy the same movies so I thought I would be in for a real treat by the time I got to see the film on DVD.
I’m still waiting for that “surprise ending.”
Maybe it was because of the tip offs that the ending had a twist, but more likely it was a failing of craftmanship by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan (superb filmmakers, I’m just a blogging critic with no credibility) in trying to hide the ending. Hell, maybe they didn’t set out for it to be a surprise at all? Never the less, I wasn’t floored by the “fooling” that took place.
While I loved The Illusionist specifically for it’s cinematography (19th century Vienna done gorgeously), I loved Prestige more for it’s actors as I had said above. Jackman, Caine, Bale — a superb threesome at the top of the bill. Yet as the movie unfolds, the pairing of Caine and Jackman’s characters over and over again don’t seem to properly balance with Bale. In fact, Jackman and Caine came off like antagonists at times, while Bale’s character’s shroud of mystery was both too revealing and too charismatic. You knew things would turn around for him at one point and all you had to do was wait. Wait. Wait.
They didn’t really turn around but lets just say he won in the end, and the fact he did wasn’t a secret or a surprise ending. Anyone watching can deduct what was going to happen by simple banter between Bale and Jackman before the two illusionist trainees had their falling out.
Nolan’s tale is worth checking out even without my little clue listed below. It reaches across two continents and has a grand mixing of characters and incidents. But from the get go you could see enough to know the hook….
***SPOILER WARNING (vague but a Spoiler) ***
A total devotion to ones craft is mentioned early in the film, and like any mystery it’s the line that should stand out. In fact, this is something that should easily be deduced even before the film starts. Any magician has to put on a charade for the public. A grand charade both on and off the stage in order to convince people.
Dual personalities, dual physical characteristics and conditions, dual memories. Dual memories.
While someone forgetting what knot they tied around the hands of an assistant who gets killed tragically makes sense — the grief, the horror, the shock all taking it’s tole on the psyche — it makes more sense if you weren’t there at all when it happened. You need to make an excuse and your other persona needs to employ that excuse in order to keep your character believable.
***END SPOILER ***
Yeah, that’s not a clear revealing of the “surprise ending”. The movie is good enough to watch that you should. Just pay attention.