Reviewed: March 2021 - Foxtel
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Andy Serkis, Piper Perabo
'Movie of the Day' has its first request! My best bud Flash requested a Christopher Nolan film, suggesting 'The Prestige', and I agree - it's a brilliant movie with a sixth-sense type of ending. I couldn't wait to pop the popcorn!! BUT. As I got into this movie, I had some real problems going back and forth - it was hard to keep track. So, I decided I needed to define each timeline, otherwise we'd all be lost - it's a little bit like the three parts of a magic trick. Hope it works. You'll need to find a quiet spot and settle in with a cuppa for this one - it's a bit of a read.
Every magic trick consists of three parts or acts:
The First Part is called 'The Pledge'
The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards; a bird; or a man!
He shows you this object, perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal.
But of course, it probably isn't.
The Second Act is called 'The Turn'
The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary.
You're looking for the secret, but you won't find it, because of course - you're not really looking - you don't really want to know.
You want to be fooled.
But you wouldn't clap yet, because making something disappear isn't enough - you have to bring it back.
That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part.
The part we call 'The Prestige'
And so begins 'The Prestige', to the distinctive cockneyed voiceover of Sir Michael Caine as he describes what is it to be a magician. As we get the magician's rulebook in audio, the viewer is shown a montage that doesn't really make sense just yet. Like the hillside strewn with top-hats. Or the magic show that Hugh Jackman is giving, where Christian Bale - in disguise - pretends to be an audience member checking out the equipment on-stage, before ducking behind the curtain and heading down below stage. Or why, when Hugh Jackman falls through a trapdoor into a tank of water, he drowns. And Christian Bale just stands there watching.
Right, montage over - let's get this movie started. But before we do, some intros:
- Cutter - is an ingenieur or engineer if you're not German. He's the guy who designs and constructs whatever apparatus is required to carry out the magician's illusions. Played by Sir Michael Caine CBE - an iconic English Actor with an iconic cockney accent, whose career has spanned 60yrs. He's been in every movie where a real Englishman was needed and won Academy Awards for 'Hannah and Her Sisters' (1986) and 'The Cider House Rules' (1999).
- Borden - a very, very serious magician played by the very, very serious Christian Bale. My first memory of Christian was in 'American Psycho', and he was also Batman for a bit - where Sir Michael was his Alfred - and more recently, 'Ford v Ferrari'.
- Angier - is there anything more dangerous than a magician hellbent on revenge? Ask Hugh Jackman - that's Wolverine to you thank you very much. Apart from the X-Men franchise, and Logan character, Hugh likes to swan across the stage singing and dancing, in 'The Boy from Oz'.
- Julia - the pretty Magician's Assistant, who happens to be Angier's wife. Played by Piper Perabo, who started out in 'Coyote Ugly' and starred in the TV show 'Covert Affairs'.
There is a reason we've seen Angier's death, and why Cutter is explaining the basics of magic: Borden is on trial for killing Angier! Cutter is on the stand giving testimony that he followed Borden below the stage and saw him watching Angier drown. Cutter claims that Borden must have moved the tank of water - from a previous trick - into place under the trap door, though he can't explain how Borden came to move so heavy an object without anyone seeing him. Must be magic!
Defence wants to know the secrets to Angier's Transported Man - how dare he ask to know how a magician's illusion works!! Cutter tells him to fuck off - ever heard of intellectual property mate?!! The judge - played by Daniel Davis, the butler from 'The Nanny' - tells him to calm-the-fuck-down: explain the trick to the judge in private.
In the meantime, Borden is waving to a pretty little girl, who is with some weird dude, up in the peanut gallery watching the trail. Hmm, fans. Nice.
The next scene has Borden back in prison, where he's been long enough to have a reputation for making things disappear, ensuring that the warden is convinced he will escape! We learn all this as Borden is visited by a solicitor acting for Lord Caldlow, an amateur magician who wants to know all of Borden's secrets. He's already been to see the weird dude - he's Borden's ingenieur - who has sold all of Borden's tricks to the solicitor except his most valuable one - The Transported Man.
Wait, what? Isn't that the name of Angier's trick?
Shit's even more real for Borden - if he loses his case he'll be hanged and the court will take his daughter - ah, ok the pretty little thing - away from the weird dude. She's going to be an orphan!
The Solicitor lays it out: Lord Caldlow will take in the little girl if Borden gives up the secret to HIS Transported Man.
And, umm you might find this interesting Borden - the solicitor hands over Angier's diary which was written back when Angier travelled to Colorado Springs to learn the secret to Borden's Transported Man, and returned with a bigger, better version. Just google it and read the reviews.
Ok, let's go back in time - this movie will chop and change people and we will need to keep up!
Angier is on a train in Colorado, where he is studying Borden's notebook! How the hell did he get his hands on that?! Well, sucks for him as the fucker is written in code and will take months to decipher. Angier is writing a diary about his attempts to decipher Borden's stolen notebook, full of all his illusions including The Transported Man. Christ, my head hurts already.
Angier is dropped off in the picturesque Colorado Springs to catch up with Tesla - the guy who invented AC power and wireless communications - who is carrying out experiments up in the mountains.
Fun Fact: In 1899 Nikola Tesla did in fact move to Colorado Springs for 9mths where he conducted experiments with electricity.
It's the snow season but it's also the 19th century so ski-fields are hard to come by. The motel is all-but shut - Angier is their only guest - and the mountain is closed. If Angier wants to get up to see Tesla he'll have to walk. Crap - hard to do when you walk with a limp and use a cane. As he nears a large compound, Angier finds it surrounded by a tall metal fence.
That fucker won't stop Wolverine! Yeah, nup. It's electrified, and Wolverine has found himself flat on his arse!
Shit! The noise has alerted security and a man with a shotgun is fast approaching. He's having a whinge - can't people read the signs!!
Please let me introduce you to Andy Serkis, Tesla's assistant. Andy revolutionised Motion Capture Acting with his roles as Golem in 'The Lord of the Rings' franchise and as Caesar in 'The Planet of the Apes'. But in this role, he is Tesla's assistant, and he has a shotgun aimed squarely at Angier's head. Until he recognises him as 'The Great Danton!' - BIG fan!! Wait, I thought his name was Angier...
OMFG! I cannot keep up.
Angier tries to bribe his way in - money usually does the trick - but Andy Serkis tells him to piss off. Tesla is too busy!! Angier lets him know where he is staying and heads back. As Angier settles in around a nice warm fire with Borden's notebook in one hand and his diary in the other, he reads about when he and Borden first met.
Angier and Borden are both magicians at the start of their careers: they are young, fit and friendly, learning their craft. They are plants in the audience who are picked when Julia - the magician's assistant, and Angier's wife - needs audience members to tie her hands and feet. Julia is then picked up by her tied hands, dropped into a tank of water where the top is slammed shut and locked, and the curtains drawn. She is supposed to be out of the tank within 60 secs. The knots that Angier and Borden tie are designed to come apart easily in the water but be robust enough to carry her up and over into the tank. What could go wrong?
Cutter - as the ingenieur - stands off to the side with a stopwatch and a hatchet. Just in case.
No need! The trick is a success!!
After the show Borden has a rant about the magician - this guy's act is tired, boring and second rate - he won't take a bloody risk!
Borden: Give me something fresh! He won't even try a bloody Bullet Catch!
Cutter: A Bullet Catch is suicide! All it takes is some smartass volunteer to put a button in the barrel.
Borden: … a real magician tries to invent something new that other magicians are going to scratch their heads over.
Cutter agrees that the magician they're whinging about won't ever take a risk again. He sends Angier and Borden to see the old Chinaman's act. The first one to figure out his signature move gets 10mins stage time. Challenge accepted!
But before they go Cutter and Borden have a chat about the knot Borden ties around Julia's hands - Borden wants to use a different knot for fucked-if-I-can-understand reason - and Cutter tells him that that knot will swell up in water and Julia won't be able to slip the rope off. They do NOT agree to disagree.
Angier and Borden head off to see the old Chinaman's act. He somehow manages to make an extremely large fishbowl appear from nowhere. As Angier looks on in amazement, Borden has a smug smile on his face. He knows baby! After the show, they look on as the old fella shuffles out to his carriage.
Borden: THIS is the trick; this is the performance, right here. This is why noone can detect his method… total devotion to his art, utter self-sacrifice.
Hugh Jackman just looks at Christian Bale like he's gone off his meds!
Later that night Angier and Julia are at home and Angier is trying to be like the old Chinaman, walking around with a giant fishbowl between his legs. The old bloke would have to be strong AS to be able to lift it up onto the pedestal on-stage!
But the old Chinaman's been shuffling around, hunched-over and bow-legged for years. Has he been pretending ALL this time? For his act?!!
Borden sussed it out straight away - what a fucking smart-ass! But hang on - Angier has a secret too! He's changed his name!! Apparently, it's not ok to be a magician in Angier's family - best not embarrass the family name. And Julia has come-up with the perfect stage name: The Great Danton! How many names does this fucker need?!!
Switch to Borden at some run-down theatre as he assists some no-name magician make a bird-in-a-cage disappear. A little boy and his mum are in the meagre audience, and the magician hides the birdcage with a cloth and then smashes it into the table - voila! the bird has disappeared!! The little boy starts to cry. "He killed it!" Even when Borden brings over the bird that the no-name magician made reappear, the little boy says that it's still dead and he wants to know where its brother is.
Kid - it's been squished to death in a collapsible fucking cage!
Turns out the kid is her nephew - good for Borden 'cause he's got the hots for this chick. He treats her to lunch, walks her home and then tries to get in for a cuppa - rather scandalous for the times. She knocks him back but as she lets herself in and locks her door, she turns to find him inside with the kettle in hand. And they laugh. They Laugh!!
In the 21st century she'd have pepper-sprayed him before landing a giant kick to the groin!! Better believe he'd be hauled away by the police. Laugh my bloody arse.
I have been remiss! Let's call 'this chick' Sarah and she is played by Rebecca Hall, an English actor best known for Christine and the TV show 'Parades End'. You'd know her. She's been in heaps of stuff.
We're finally taken back to the trial, and the judge and Cutter are checking out Angier's machine - the one he used for The Transported Man. It's all packed away inside a rather large wooden box - postmarked from Colorado Springs. Postage must have been a bitch.
Judge: You built this Mr Cutter?
Cutter: Oh no sir, this wasn't built by a MAGICIAN - this was built by a WIZARD! A man who can actually DO what magicians pretend to do.
After the trial, Angier's machine, which has been sold, will go to Lord Caldlow - the dude who is buying up Borden's secrets and who wants to adopt his little girl.
What the fuck is going on??
Cutter shows the judge the tank that Angier drowned in. One side of its thick glass has been smashed in. At the top of the tank there's a small gap where the person inside the tank can reach through and undo the trick lock. But the trick lock has been replaced with a real one - trapping Angier inside.
And then we time travel back to the young and fit again, as Cutter explains why the water tank was of special significance to Angier and Borden.
Julia is on stage, and Angier and Borden are picked to come up on stage again, to tie her hands and feet together for her water tank escape trick. Except this time - with a knowing look and an almost imperceptible nod of the head from Julia - Borden uses a different knot; the knot that Cutter warned would swell up in water. Julia is lifted up and dropped into the tank, it is locked, and the curtain closed around it. Cutter starts the 60secs countdown.
But something's wrong! Julia is stuck in the tank - her hands are still bound tightly!
Cutter starts to hack away at the inch thick glass, with Julia struggling inside the tank for all to see. But he takes too long… and she drowns. When the glass finally does break the water gushes out and she tumbles onto the stage.
CPR hasn't been invented yet, so...
Christopher Nolan splices together scenes of Julia as she drowns, and Angier with his face in a bowl of water - he's either trying to see what she felt or trying to join her. In any case, it ends with him on the floor completely bereft.
**Edit: Ok right, so my cousin Paul won't know what bereft means. It means when someone is completely devastated, heartbroken and distressed. He should understand that.**
At the funeral Cutter tells the mourners that a sailing mate who had gone overboard and drowned, described it as like 'going home'. That is fucked up because drowning is horrifically painful. Borden dares to turn up and Angier wants to know "…what knot did you tie?" He asks, over and over again. But Borden doesn't know.
You're a motherfucking LIAR!!!
Life goes on, and Sarah comes home to find Borden with the weird dude - his ingenieur - and some new props. Borden's magic act has been booked! But Sarah's having a bitch about money - they can't afford to pay the weird dude - but hey don't stress, Borden will just split his food with the weird dude until the ticket sales come in. No worries! Umm, Sarah has news - she's preggers! And the first thing Borden says - we should have told the weird dude before he left!!
Even more interesting - the new props include The Bullet Catch. Yeah, he's a fuckwit.
All good magician's want to test out their new tricks so Borden challenges Sarah to shoot him - to prove to her that it's not dangerous. Now Sarah is NOT a fuckwit, so she aims at a window, but Borden thrusts his hand in front of the gun just as she fires! And catches the bullet!!
We then get to see the secret behind the trick - they load up the gun with gunpowder, wadding and the bullet and then ram it down the barrel with the ramrod. But this is a magician's ramrod, and the bullet comes out WITH the ramrod - the gun therefore has no bullet. Completely safe!
Unless some dickwad in the audience shoves something down the barrel. And then it's deadly. Yeah, he's a fuckwit.
And then something very weird happens - Borden tells Sarah that he loves her:
Sarah: Say it again.
Borden: I love you.
Sarah: Not today.
Sarah: Well, some days it's not true and today you don't mean it. Maybe today you're more in love with magic than me. I like being able to tell the difference. It makes the days it is true mean something.
We head over to Borden's act, in a seedy little hole-in-the-ground and we find a very unamused audience responding to a man with zero showmanship. Frustrated from all the heckling he's getting, Borden draws a gun on the crowd. A popular move. Once Borden pulls his head in and shows the crowd that the gun is part of the act, he calls for a volunteer. As he loads up the gun, the weird guy chooses a volunteer.
Did the volunteer just slip something into the barrel of the gun?
OMFG! That's Angier!! He's in disguise, and that fucker is pointing a loaded gun at Borden and wants to know "…what knot did you tie?!!"
The weird guy rushes Angier and the gun goes off, blasting off two of Borden's fingers.
In Colorado Springs Angier is reading Borden's notebook about the night just past. Borden writes that he does not remember which knot he used to tie Julia's hands and he told Angier the truth the night Angier shot his fingers shot off. Angier is seriously pissed off.
Thankyou Christopher Nolan for some more time-warpy shit because now we see Borden reading Angier's diary, about the night he read Borden's notebook, about the night Borden had his fingers shot off. Angier does not know how the fuck Borden could not know what knot he tied. Borden looks rather pensive in that Christopher Bale kind of way.
Ok - dealing with two amputated fingers and Sarah doesn't understand why the wounds look as bad as they do, almost as bad as the day it happened. Borden is acting like a prickly bastard and is insisting that being a magician is still a good career choice. Sarah does not agree.
Wolverine - sorry Angier - is at the pub having a pint when he finds a card stuck to the bottom of the glass. It's Cutter's calling card, and he's got another pint and a proposition for Angier - how about we team up.
So, they head out to find a workspace where they can get to work on their illusions. And we get to meet the new magician's assistance - one Scarlett Johansson. I shouldn't have to tell you who this woman is - she is a superstar known the world over. If you can't place her - google people.
There's a small montage of preparation. It's a rather eye-opening look into 19th century magic. Cool.
It is opening night and it is a full house! But the audience is like meh - we've seen all this before. Angier ducks off-stage to prepare for a new trick that would make a bird disappear but without squishing it - it's RSPCA approved. Problem is it requires two volunteers from the audience.
I need to explain this one. The bird is in the cage. The first volunteer places her hands on the sides of the cage whilst the second volunteer puts his hands on the top and bottom. Problem is the guy is missing two fingers! And when Angier realises and looks up, he sees a poorly disguised Borden grinning at him, just before he smashes the cage shut, squishing the bird and breaking a few of the first volunteer's fingers.
RSPCA and WorkCover are called and the show is shut down.
I think we need to take stock:
Angier - also goes by The Great Anton, a family name we as yet don't know, Wolverine or Hugh Jackman depending on the day
- His wife Julia was killed by Borden's negligence
- He sabotaged Borden's act, blasting off two of his fingers
- His act was shut down after Borden sabotaged it
Borden - also goes by Christian Bale, but don't approach him
- Killed Julia when he used the wrong knot
- He lost two fingers when Angier sabotaged his act
- He sabotaged Angier's act when he squished the bird and the lady's fingers
Cutter - also goes by Cutter. Michael Caine's time-travelled out of 19th century England with that accent for fucks sake
- Noone wants to work with him because they think it was his design that caused Julia's death
We are back in Colorado Springs where an electrical storm is raging, and Andy Serkis has come down the mountain. He takes Angier out onto a hillside overlooking the town - the town that has electricity in every home - a perk that Tesla provided so that he could use the generators for his experiments, when the town is sleeping.
Suddenly, the hillside lights up with hundreds of light-globes glowing brightly! Angier picks one of the globes up - it's just sitting on the ground, unattached to any wires! What.The.Actual.Fuck!!
Andy Serkis invites Angier to lunch - he can finally meet Tesla!
With the act shut down Cutter sends Angier to a Technical Expo to get some inspiration from the engineers of the world. Can't hurt. Right? Angier sits in on Tesla's demo - 'The Wonders of Alternating Current'. Sparks are zapping around - seemingly all over the room - but in reality, between two great big metal pillars. And apparently, it's all safe - but the crowd is voicing their concerns about their personal safety rather loudly. Amidst all the uproar and mayhem - Andy Serkis is there telling people that Tesla won't come out if people continue acting like piss-ants - Angier spies Borden sitting on the far side of the room, mesmerised by Tesla's invention.
Angier decides to follow Borden - and is devastated to find that Borden has found happiness with a wife and baby.
Borden picks up his baby, and with a warm embrace greets his wife:
Borden: Sarah, I love you.
Sarah: See, today it's true.
As Angier ponders over Borden's notebook, he realises that he should never have been envious of the happiness that Borden had - happiness that should have been his.
Angier: His notebook reveals that he never had the life that I envied - the family life that he craves one minute he rails against the next, demanding freedom. His mind is a divided one; his soul is restless. His wife and child tormented by his fickle and contradictory nature.
Borden's face - reading the same words from Angier's diary - is haunted.
The next day is visiting day and the weird guy - who never speaks btw - is there with Borden's daughter. She is to be taken from the weird guy and is due to go to a Workhouse - a place where she can expect to be beaten, starved and forced to work all day. The kid looks like she's five.
Borden - having grown up in a Workhouse himself - has reconsidered Lord Caldlow's offer: he's going to sell the secret to his greatest act. His daughter will be saved!
Later, in the prison yard, Borden is having a sit, minding his own business when a guard decides to act like a compete knob to prove that he's the bigger man - because, you know, he's a guard. He taunts Borden who brings out a red rubber ball. He throws the ball in the air a few times before he fumbles, and scrambles to grab the ball up off the ground. The guard, being the prick that he is, laughs and asks "… how'd you get so famous?", just as he finds out that his leg has been shackled to the table.
Naturally, the prisoners piss themselves laughing, as the guards bash Borden to the ground.
It is time to meet Tesla. Fuck yeah!! And who should it be? None other than David Bowie! The music legend who likes to pop up in movies every now and then! They're not the best movies though tbh… Christopher Nolan has made sure we notice Bowie's unique eyes - one green, one blue - as Tesla shows Angier that our bodies have enough electrical current in them to power a light bulb. People, rush out and try it! Right now! Ha!!! Let me know if it works!!
Over lunch, Tesla tells Angier to piss off home and forget his obsession. Angier - knowing that Tesla is himself an obsessed man - tells him to fuck off, he wants this machine, regardless of the cost. ANY cost. Tesla says fine, I've already started it.
Nobody mentions just what this machine is…
Angier is angry. His act has been shut down and Borden is out there living the life that Angier should be living. Borden has a new act - The Transported Man - and Angier is on his way to see it. In disguise of course. Lucky for him, Scarlett Johansson is still on the scene, as she helps with the disguise and comes with. But you know what - these disguises are piss-poor! I'm sorry, but no shout-out to the make-up department on this one. And what about security?!! How is it these guys can get into each other's show? Isn't there like a picture at the gate - 'Don't let this dirtbag in'? Angier finds a seat among the despondent crowd - again, Borden has as much showmanship as a stuffed cabbage - that is, until his final trick.
Borden has two man-size closets on either side of the stage. He shows the audience that there is noone in either closet and, bouncing his red rubber ball he lets it loose, before stepping into one of the closets. Now, we don't see the end of the illusion - it's only described to us at this point.
But Angier describes it as the greatest illusion he's ever seen. Ok. Like.Wow.
Back in their workspace Cutter, Angier and Scarlett Johansson have a chat about Borden's trick - they've all seen it. After Borden steps into the first cabinet the ball only bounces for two or three seconds before the other cabinet door bursts opens, and Borden reappears.
Cutter believes that Borden is using a double - there can't be any other explanation! Angier and Scarlett Johansson however, believe that it's Borden - it must be; she reckons EACH man is missing two fingers!!
The team decide to steal Borden's idea - the man is incapable of putting on a good show - so they'll do one better! But first, they'll have to find a body double for Angier - it's the only way Borden's Transported Man can work. Right?
For a brief moment we switch to Borden and Sarah - he has a surprise for her! They're moving to a nice new home - one that she had pointed out last week. And last week Borden said no, giving her all kinds of reasons why they couldn't have the place. But he's allowed to change his mind. Right?
It doesn't take long for the team to find Angier's double - an obnoxious, drunk, out-of-work actor. Nice work Hugh Jackman!! Cutter takes him under his wing - he has a month to belt him into shape. In the meantime, Angier and Scarlett Johansson prepare the illusion - and get a little hot and heavy when noone's looking.
Angier's Transported Man 1.0
There are two doorframes on either side of the stage. As Angier opens one door - he's now hidden from the audience - he falls through a trapdoor onto a thick mat below the stage. As that is happening, his body double is being elevated up through another trapdoor, behind the open door on the other side of the stage. Once up, he strides out and receives all the applause. The whole thing looks like Angier is walking into a door on the left side of the stage and instantly walking out another door on the right side of the stage. Seamless.
Cutter's had his month - he introduces the new and improved body double. He's still a douchebag, but he'll do.
The new act - headlined 'The NEW Transported Man' - opens to a packed theatre. The illusion goes off without a hitch and The Transported Man is a winner - the crowd loves it!! Angier takes his bow under the stage - he is SERIOUSLY bummed out that he's missing the ovation.
And even as they celebrate their success, Angier is thinking of Borden - how the hell does he do HIS trick??
So, like a fuckwit - these pair are both fuckwits - Angier decides that it would be a brilliant idea to ask Scarlett Johansson to go and work for Borden. That way, she could find out the secret to Borden's Transported Man - giving him the answer to how the trick is REALLY done - and he would have the greatest show on earth!!
Scarlett's thrilled - who doesn't want to be pimped out. Like I said… fuckwit!
Fun Fact: The magic tricks shown in the movie are made up! Christopher Nolan did very little research into magic, to avoid having a heap of magicians compain that he'd given away the end to all of their tricks! Hugh Jackman however got some tips from David Copperfield - at 12am in the secret room at the back of a sex-shop in Las Vegas!! I kid you not.
Meanwhile in Colorado Springs Angier is up at the compound - Tesla is ready to show him what he's been working on. Andy Serkis takes Angier's top-hat and places it on the floor, inside a circular cage. They turn the power on, and electrical currents arc all around the cage, between a giant ball overhead and the top-hat. When the power goes off and the smoke clears, nothing has changed. What went wrong? Leaving his top-hat there, a rather pissed-off Angier is quickly ushered off by Andy Serkis, while an impassioned Tesla watches on.
Scarlett Johansson shows up at Borden's workshop offering her services. The weird dude scurries away - seriously, he never hangs around for anything. Borden tells Scarlett to piss off! Why would he want to have Angier's mistress working for him? And then she tells him like it is.
Scarlett Johansson: I am here because he sent me here. He wants me to come and work for you and steal your secret.
Borden: What does he need my secret for? His trick is top-notch. He vanishes and then he reappears instantly on the other side of the stage, mute, over-weight and unless I'm mistaken, very drunk! It's astonishing - how does he do?!! And tell me Olivia, does he enjoy taking his bows under the stage?
Scarlett Johansson: No, it's killing him, he's obsessed with discovering your methods. He thinks of nothing else; he takes no pleasure in our success… there is no future with him. He sent me here to steal your secrets, but I've actually come to offer you his.
Meanwhile Angier's double has discovered he can make demands. So he does. Cutter tries to tell Angier that it's best to not do any trick you can't control - he's currently sitting at #1 on the Billboard Top 100, so stop whilst you still have your reputation. Angier says fuck it! Let's keep doing the trick until Borden's new show opens across the road.
Everything always works out when you have a 'fuck it' kind of attitude! Right?
Angier starts to read just how Borden went about sabotaging his Transported Man 1.0
- First, Borden befriends Angier's double
- He then pumps him full of grog
- Borden then lets the double know that he too, is a fellow magician who also has a trick called The Transported Man, and he also uses a body double
- Borden then tells the double that whilst ever he does this trick, he will have complete power of Angier
- Borden then stands back and watches Angier's trick descend into disarray
We start to see the double fuck up and instead of having an amazing trick to cap off a great show, Angier is becoming a laughingstock.
And then one night, the unthinkable happens. Borden has infiltrated Angier's show! When Angier falls through the trapdoor, there is no mat and he hits the ground hard, breaking his leg!! When Angier looks across, instead of seeing his double on the elevator he sees Borden. As Borden exists the trap-door and stumbles out onto Angier's stage the audience is confused. Isn't he supposed to be across the road?
Wait - Angier's bound, and gagged double is being lowered down onto the stage behind Borden, with a large sign around his neck that reads: 'Opening at Pantages. The Professor'
With a level of showmanship that he has never shown before, Borden jumps off the stage, walks through the crowd and leaves the theatre through the front door - to the delight of the delirious crowd. Angier's reputation is as shattered as his leg.
A few days later, Angier turns up at Scarlett Johansson's place - his leg in a medieval leg brace and walking with a cane. He wants to know what the fuck happened - you were supposed to spy on him bitch - not improve his act! Scarlett tries to tell Angier that Borden uses a double - she's seen the make-up, glasses, wigs.
Angier: It's misdirection! He leaves those things lying around to make you think he's using a double!
Scarlett Johansson: All the time? He doesn't know when I'm looking.
Angier: ALL THE TIME OLIVIA!! THAT'S WHO HE IS; THAT'S WHAT IT TAKES! HE LIVES HIS ACT, DON'T YOU SEE?!!!
But then Scarlett Johansson does something unexpected - she hands over Borden's notebook… his diary, full of all his illusions, all his secrets. Angier is giddy! But two things: Firstly - it's in code, so sucks to be Angier trying to figure it out. Secondly - Scarlett Johansson nicked that, and Borden knows it would have been her that took it, and… well, he knows where she lives. No worries, Angier will stage a robbery. Easy!
Oh, and one more thing. Angier just said he doesn't care about his dead wife, he cares more about Borden's secret. Yeah, you better look ashamed Hugh Jackman.
The next morning Borden finds his workshop all busted up and his notebook missing. He knows Angier did it and he knows that Angier is just getting started.
That night Borden's new show opens, and HIS new and improved Transported Man has two fancier cabinets, with the addition of a few electrical arcs and sparks. And the lovely Magician's Assistant Scarlett Johansson adds some theatrics and glamour that was sorely missing. The crowds outside after the show are keen for an autograph, so the show must be a success!!
Borden decides to walk home and lets the weird dude know it's all good. As he sets off, the weird dude spots Angier following Borden, so - checking that his gun is loaded - he sets off after the limping Angier. The three of them are heading downtown until Angier ducks into a side-alley - where the fuck is he going? The weird dude gives chase and as he races up a set of stairs the fuckers give way, and he falls through, into an open box.
What the fuck??!!
Cutter jumps out and shuts the doors to the box, but as he's nailing them shut, the weird dude shoots him! Holy shit, will Cutter live?
The next day Borden meets Angier in a graveyard. He's impressed - Angier has finally gotten his hands dirty: that's what a good trick costs. Turns out the weird dude doesn't say very much so Angier wants Borden to write down the method to his Transported Man.
Borden writes one word.
Angier: I want the whole method, not the keyword. I don't even know if your secret is in your notebook.
Borden: The keyword IS the method.
With that Angier takes off and Borden is left to dig up his buried ingenieur.
Angier - wanting to share the secret of Borden's illusion with Cutter - meets up at the hospital, where Cutter's arm is being patched up. Oh yeah - Cutter's alive - did I not mention that? My bad. Cutter doesn't understand what Borden has written.
But Angier gets it - he is super excited! Road trip to America!! But Cutter says yeah, nup. I'm sitting this one out. See you when you get back.
That night after the show, Sarah is joined by Borden, Scarlett Johansson and the weird guy for dinner. Borden is drunk, loud and obnoxious. He reckons he's going to get buried every night as part of the act. How joyous! Sarah asks the weird guy to escort Scarlett Johansson home.
Sarah: Why are you being like this Alfred?
Borden: I had a terrible ordeal today. I thought that something very precious had been lost to me, so I just wanted to celebrate… just a little.
Sarah: Alright what? What did you lose?
Sarah: I see. More secrets.
Borden: Sarah. Secrets are my life. Our life.
Sarah: No Alfred stop, this isn't you. Stop performing.
Angier is in Colorado Springs, reading Borden's notebook about the day Angier sent Scarlett Johansson to spy on Borden. She's seriously pissed off that he pimped her off and instead of being a spy she wants to help Borden with his act - this first thing being to own his three-fingered hand.
Turns out losing two fingers gives Borden an advantage in The Transported Man - it proves that he's not using a body double. Doesn't it? Plus, it must be tricky doing tricks with only three fingers. Show people how awesome you are Borden!!
In a mini-montage we see how Borden comes to both fall in love with Scarlett Johansson and to trust her, as the weird dude does a lot of recon, tailing Scarlett as he tries to prove her fidelity. But there's only one real way she can really prove herself - she must help them get rid of Angier.
Christopher Nolan does a great job here. He had Borden do the voice-over of what Angier is reading as we see the montage. And then he reads that Scarlett Johansson is helping Borden and we see Angier frantically flipping through the pages of Borden's notebook, trying to find the end.
Borden: Today my mistress proves her truthfulness. Not to me you understand - I've been convinced since she led me to Roo (the double).
Today, Olivia proved her love for me - to YOU Angier.
She gave you this notebook at my request, and yes 'Tesla' is merely the key to my diary - not to my trick!
Do you really think I would part with my secret so easily after so much?
Goodbye Angier. May you find solace for your thwarted ambition back in your American home.
With a tear in his eye and a well-placed dribble of snot, Angier almost rips the notebook in two. I was half expecting to see three blades burst from his knuckles, so clenched were his fists!
Wolverine - sorry, Angier - storms up the mountain, demanding to see Tesla!
Angier: Tesla never made the machine like the one that I asked for.
Andy Serkis: I never said he had.
Angier: Well, you let me believe that he had! You stole my money because your funding had been cut off, you've been shooting sparks at my top-hat, laughing at me all along while using my money to stave off ruin!
Tesla strolls in with Andy Serkis' black cat and very calmly tells Angier that they've been working out the kinks in the machine - these things aren't an exact science so calm-the-fuck down. Andy Serkis, rather reluctantly, ties his cat down in the centre of the cage - look the top-hat simply wasn't working - and Tesla turns the machine on. Yeah, the cat doesn't move a whisker. See what I did there? Didn't move a whisker!!
Angier tells Tesla he's the king of fuckwits, and he and a rather pissed-off black cat take off down the mountain. The cat veers off to the right and we hear a bit of a cat-fight going on… Angier's like - shit, do I have to deal with this crap too? And do you know what he finds dear reader?
He finds two black cats and a pile of top-hats! OMFG the machine works!! Call 'The Big Bang Theory' we've just proved string theory!
Angier: So, the machine was working?
Andy Serkis: I never bothered to check the calibration because the hat never moved.
Tesla: These things never quite work as you expect them to Mr. Angier, that's one of the principal beauties of science. I'll need a couple of weeks to iron out the problems with the machine.
Borden is having a cuppa when his little daughter comes running out - they're off to the zoo today! But Borden has forgotten and he has some errands to run - how about they go when he gets back. Sarah is drunk and is pouring herself another! She's having trouble dealing with a hubby with a split personality - some days he loves her the most, other days it's magic.
Borden: Sarah… what are you doing?
Sarah: We each of us have our vices.
Borden: Sarah, whatever you may think the only competition for my affections is our little girl. I love you. I will always love you and you alone.
Sarah: You mean it today… which makes it so much harder when you don't.
Borden heads out to run his errands and meets up with the weird dude. He asks the weird dude to take his daughter to the zoo, and then he tells him that Sarah knows. She knows what exactly?
Borden: Sarah, she knows. Ah, well, I mean at least she knows that something's not right. So, if you can just do whatever you can to help me, whatever, talk to her, convince her that I DO love her.
Borden then heads over to Scarlett Johansson's place where she greets him warmly and he looks like he's being licked by his great auntie Bess. Scarlett scolds him - leave the family at the door lover. Looks like Borden is growing a conscious.
Angier heads up to Tesla's compound to find that it has been burnt to the ground, with Tesla and Andy Serkis nowhere to be found. Thomas Edison sent some goons to fuck with Tesla and his work. Motherfuckers! But they didn't find the rather large wooden box that Tesla had had delivered to the hotel - with a note apologising for having to leave without saying hooray, and instructions on how to use the machine. And some words of advice - destroy the machine!
Angier of course ignores that advice and fires up the machine - with a gun at the ready - Hugh Jackson's dulcet tones explaining every step. And in the same voice-over trickery that Christopher Nolan used before, we see Borden reading Angier's diary of the account where Angier starts to talk directly TO Borden.
As he sits in his prison cell on trial for Angier's murder!!
Angier's voiceover: But here at 'The Turn' I must leave you Borden. Yes, you Borden.
Sitting there in your cell, reading my diary. Awaiting your death, for my murder.
Borden is completely mystified. He demands to see the solicitor who gave him the diary - the fuckers a fake! Yeah, nup it's Angier's handwriting and has been verified. Borden doesn't believe him. He nevertheless hands over 'The Pledge' and 'The Turn' for all his illusions - parts one and two people - but won't hand over 'The Prestige' to any of them until he sees his daughter. He wants to say goodbye.
Borden and Sarah are having a blazing row, with Sarah accusing Borden of having it off with Scarlett Johansson and he, of course, denying it. Borden is treating Sarah like an absolute prick. Their little girl is sitting in the next room in tears when the weird guy comes in and very gently picks her up and carries her away.
All Sarah wants is for Borden to be honest with her - no more lies, no more tricks.
Sarah: Do you love me?
Borden: Not today. Nope.
Sarah looks relieved.
The next morning Sarah heads down to Borden's work studio, where she reminisces about the man she fell in love with; and the man she lives with.
And then she hangs herself.
Cutter is at the pub having a counter-meal when he finds a card at the bottom of his pint glass. It has an address and a time on it. How ominous. Cutter turns up at a dump of a theatre - it is fire damaged and has been gutted. He walks in to find a couple of old, blind stagehands. And Angier. He wants to play his last show - a limited engagement - of the REAL Transported Man, and he needs Cutters help to get it across the line. Angier doesn't want him to work backstage on this one - he wants Cutter to build a show that will get Borden's attention.
Cutter starts calling in favours - you need a promoter - so this dude shows up and Angier shows off his trick. He walks down to the stage, turns the power on, walks into the circular cage with electrical sparks firing off everywhere and then he disappears. And 3 secs later calmly taps The Promoter on the shoulder - they're up on the balcony. Pick your jaw up off the ground and go out and tell the people.
Borden and Scarlett Johansson are out having coffee and Scarlett wants to know why Borden never talks about Sarah - did you know that Sarah wanted to have a chat with Scarlett the day before she died, but Scarlett chickened out? What would Sarah have said?
Borden: You want to know the truth about me? The truth is that I never loved Sarah.
Scarlett Johansson: You married her; you have a child with her.
Borden: Yes, yes, a part of me did, but the other part didn't, the part that found you, the part that's sitting here right now. I love you - no Olivia - I love you, that's the truth! That is the truth that matters.
Scarlett Johansson: You could be in some other restaurant, with some other woman right now, talking about me that way. It's inhuman to be so cold.
Scarlett says all of that btw, with a look of utter disdain on her face. She gets up to leave but lets Borden know that Angier is back after 2yrs away, with an amazing trick that noone has ever seen before.
Yeah, Borden just got his arse and his ego dumped on. Nice one Scarlett.
The 1st and 2nd Acts have now merged
The Promoter - played by Edward Hibbert, Gil on TV's Frasier - does what all good promotors do, and tells. He tells the owner of the best theatre in town that Angier's show will be showing in his theatre, for 100 shows - no matinees, with tickets at 'this' price. The Moscow Ballet can bugger off!
Angier's Transported Man 2.0
And so it begins, with Borden in the audience. Angier's show does not have the showmanship that one would expect from Angier - it is considered and meticulous. When Angier unveils his final trick - the equipment has been 'dolled up' and as audience members are invited up to check the gear out, Angier stands on stage with his eyes closed. There is none of his previous theatrics.
With the electricity arcing about the stage, Angier enters the cage. And disappears. Wait - did Borden see a trapdoor?
The audience is stunned into silence. What the fuck just happened?
But then the spotlight pivots to the back of the theatre - up to the balcony, where Angier is standing with arms outreached - to thunderous applause!!
Borden is incensed!!! He is laying into the weird guy because he can't figure out how the fuck can Angier move 50yards in one second? The only thing they know for sure is that Angier uses a trapdoor. Yeah, and Borden can't handle getting knocked off the Billboard top 100 - Angier is being hailed as the best magician in England. Ouch!!
Borden: … WHAT IS GOING ON UNDER THAT STAGE? WHY CAN'T YOU OUT-THINK HIM?!!!
So, the weird dude heads out for some recon. He finds that after each show - in the middle of the night - the blind stagehands can be found loading up a tightly covered tank-shaped container onto a wagon. What he doesn't see is where it gets off-loaded. To that dump of a theatre. But Cutter's seen it, and when he shows up at the old dump Angier again tells him he doesn't want him working backstage.
Borden and the weird dude can't figure it out - they can't figure out how Angier does his trick. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Borden is bowing out! He tells the weird dude to stay
away from Angier - leave him alone - they're done!!
But hang-on - why is Borden in the audience the next day?? Sure, he's in a disguise but it's so shitty! He gets up on-stage to check out the gear and then ducks behind the curtain and heads down under the stage.
Borden finds the open tank of water, directly underneath the trapdoor about to be used for the final act. An old blind stagehand sits quietly nearby. As the electricity arcs all around Angier the trapdoor opens and he drops into the tank of water, the top slamming shut. As Angier struggles to get out, Borden starts to yell "Where's the bloody key" over and over. Borden's calls for help can be heard throughout the theatre.
Borden grabs a wrench and hacks away at the thickened glass but Angier drowns in front of him, just as Cutter comes running down. Cutter pushes Borden away as he tries to open the lid, but the lock won't open and there is no key. "What have you done?"
Get excited people, the three acts are now in sync and we are almost at the end!
3rd Act - 'The Prestige'
Borden is found guilty of Angier's murder and is to be hanged.
The trial is over and the box containing Angier's Transportable Man is about to go to Lord Caldlow. Cutter asks the Solicitor if he could buy the machine. NO! Well then, could he have a chat with the Lord in person. HELL NO!! Though, if you want to be tricky and be there when the delivery takes place, who can stop you…
Borden is getting to say goodbye to his little girl - Lord Caldlow is swinging by - and Borden will hand over all of 'The Prestige's'. With eyes firmly on his little girl he gives her some great dad-like love. And then he looks up.
Angier - The Great Danton - Lord Caldlow - is looking back. What.The.Actual.Fuck???!!!!!
Borden: I pulled you out… out of that tank.
Angier:(in a very, very posh English accent) All I wanted to do was prove that I was the better magician, but you wouldn't leave me alone.
Borden: I don't know what you've done, but you're not afraid to get your hands dirty anymore are you?
Angier: No, not anymore. And I win…
Borden: … You win? This ain't a bloody competition anymore Angier, this is my little girls' life, and don't you dare put her in the middle of this.
Angier: I know how hard it is to have something so special taken away from you, don't I Borden…
As Angier/The Great Danton/Lord Caldlow turns to leave Borden frantically stops him and gives him the page that holds the secret to HIS Transportable Man. Conceding that Borden is in fact the better magician, Angier inexplicably tears the page up without even looking at it. Angier's illusion is superior - why the fuck does he need the answer to an inferior one?
Borden reaches through the bars for his little girl and promises her - PROMISES her - that he will come for her soon.
Borden: Angier! ANGIER! WHY? YOU THINK THIS PLACE CAN HOLD ME?! ANGIER, THEY'RE GONNA BLOODY HANG ME! THEY'RE GONNA BLOODY HANG ME, YOU CAN PUT A STOP TO THIS NOW!!
Angier and the little girl walk away as Borden frantically tries to get the guards to believe that that's the man he supposedly killed. Yeah, they couldn't give a fuck.
Fun Fact: The pretty little girl who plays Borden's daughter is Christopher Nolan's child!
When Lord Caldlow gets home he finds Cutter waiting for him. Cutter cannot believe what he is seeing and with a tear in his eye he wants to know just who the hell did he ID on the slab in the morgue. And then the little girl comes in - Cutter recognises her! He gives Angier the serve of contempt he deserves for sending that little girl's father to the gallows.
Back in prison, Borden is saying goodbye to his good mate, the weird dude. He tells him to go live a full life, for both of them. He apologises for hurting Sarah, and for not leaving Angier alone. He gives the red, rubber ball to the weird dude. And as they hang him, he says 'Abracadabra'.
Angier and Cutter take the machine to that dump of a theatre where all the other gear is - naturally it's the middle of the night. Before Cutter leaves, he wants Angier to stay for a minute and have a ponder on all that he has achieved. He tells him that when someone drowns, it is pure agony - something to think about. Angier is left peering into one of the water-filled tanks.
As Cutter takes off, he passes someone - is it the weird dude? - and he gives him a little nod.
Angier hears a noise and turns, calling out to Cutter. A red, rubber ball comes bouncing out of the darkness towards him. As Angier picks it up a gunshot rings out and Angier drops to his knees! He's been shot in the chest!!
The ball rolls back towards the gunman, who reaches down for it - with a hand that is missing two fingers.
It is Borden! But didn't we JUST see him hang??!!! YES. YES WE DID!!
Finally, the truth of this movie - The Prestige - has been revealed. Borden and the weird dude are twins!! They have been living a double life for - well, does anyone actually know? Well, for as long as this bloody movie!
Borden/weird dude reveals what it has meant to lead this double life:
- Borden and the weird dude took turns at being the magician and the ingenieur - they shared each other's life
- When Borden's fingers were shot off, the weird dude had to have two of his fingers chopped off - hence Sarah's confusion as to why the wounds weren't healing properly
- The weird guy loved Sarah, and Borden loved Scarlett Johansson - which is why when Borden told Sarah he loved her, she would say "not today"
Borden/weird dude: There is nothing easy about two men sharing one life… we each had half of a full life which was enough for us - just… see sacrifice Robert (Angier) that's the price of a good trick.
Does Angier really understand what it means to sacrifice to create that great illusion? Remember back when Angier first fired up his machine and he had a gun ready to go? Yeah, he shot that duplicate as soon as the smoke cleared and his carbon-copy was staring back at him. And then every night at the end of each show Angier did not know if he would be the man left to die in the water-filled tank or if he would be 'The Prestige' up on the balcony.
Does that sound like sacrifice to you Borden/weird dude?
Look around Borden/weird dude! See the sacrifices that Angier has made to become the greatest magician alive. Look. Look at all the tanks with drowned men in them.
But Borden/weird dude isn't falling for it - he doesn't even turn his head. He belittles Angier - so what if you went half-way around the world, did terrible things, and spent a fortune. What did you achieve Angier, because Borden/weird dude thinks it was all for nothing?
Angier: Nothing? You never understood why we did this.
The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It's miserable, solid all the way through.
But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you… then you got to see something very special.
You really don't know?
It was the look on their faces.
Angier slumps back, dead. His leg jerks out and the oil lantern he had been carrying is knocked over and a fire starts. It will consume the dump of a theatre and all of its macabre possessions.
Borden/weird dude - expressionless - stands up and leaves, but not before turning around and checking out the rows of tanks filled with a dead man.
The movie ends as it began with Cutter telling us the three parts of a magic act, while he shows the pretty little girl - Borden/weird dude's little girl - a few magic tricks.
Every magic trick consists of three parts or acts:
The First Part is called 'The Pledge'
The magician shows you something ordinary.
The Second Act is called 'The Turn'
The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it into something extraordinary.
But you wouldn't clap yet, because making something disappear isn't enough - you have to bring it back.
Enter Borden/weird dude - he's come for his little girl, just as he promised he would. And with a nod to Cutter, off they go.
Now you're looking for the secret, but you won't find it, because of course - you're not really looking - you don't really want to know.
You want to be fooled.
And so ENDS 'The Prestige'
Angier - an English Lord posing as an American magician - throws out every ounce of morality for the applause; so that he can see the smiles on people's faces. Along the way, he loses his wife, his friends, any sense of honour, and ultimately his life.
And what of Borden? He lives a life that is so shrouded in secrets and lies that noone knows that he shares his life with his twin, and that their greatest illusion was their life. But at what cost? Borden, the brother more obsessed with magic ultimately loses his life because of it. And because of their deception, the weird dude's love, Sarah, commits suicide - driven mad because she knows her husband is not just unfaithful, but seems like he has a split personality. And why? Just so they could be the best.