starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine
screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, based on the novel by Christopher Priest
directed by Christopher Nolan
by Walter Chaw It's possible to say that Christopher Nolan's perplexing chimera of a film, The Prestige, has something on its mind about not only the nasty, zero-sum game of vengeance but also the belief that if you cut one head off a malevolent beast it will, hydra-like, sprout another. It's a costume drama that feels like the world's darkest, dour-est, most inappropriate thriller serial, placing a series of increasingly complicated and unpleasant revenge-scenarios in chronological order and reminding of, if anything, just how bad Nolan's Memento makes you feel. The Prestige shares a heart of darkness, after all, with that film: a belief that men are essentially callow opportunists and liars who will misuse the people in their lives in order to maintain an illusion of command, however tenuous, over entropy. The manipulation of illusion is arguably the auteur mark of Nolan, who played with the idea of the manipulation of fear as a weapon in Batman Begins, the practical purpose of dream sleep in his remake of Insomnia, and of course of identity as fluid, ephemeral, and dangerously malleable in Memento and Following. Matching this director with a strange, campy film about turn-of-the-century magicians engaged in mortal combat makes a lot of sense.