If the greatest magicians never reveal their tricks, then Christopher Nolan wouldn't make it past the children's birthday-party circuit. It's not that Nolan has anything against the old hocus-pocus, but it's the practical side of magic that appeals to him most -- the nuts-and-bolts explanation behind the seemingly "impossible" feat. Magic lies front and center in Nolan's latest, The Prestige, about two rival illusionists (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) who obsessively pursue each other from turn-of-the-20th-century London to the wilds of Colorado and from the stages of the West End to the laboratory of the mad-genius inventor Nikola Tesla (played to paranoid perfection by David Bowie). Set at a historical moment perfect for a rationalist thinker like Nolan, as the last vestiges of the Victorian era give way to the dawning of the Machine Age, it's a lopsided but compulsively absorbing movie in which the director seems drawn less to his main characters than to those on the periphery -- to Tesla and to Angier's wizened illusion-designer Cutter (Michael Caine) and, by extension, to all those other men through the ages who have sought to bridge the gap between the real and the illusory, the natural and the supernatural.
Christopher NolanHugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, David Bowie, Piper Perabo, Andy Serkis, Edward Hibbert, Robert Arbogast, W Morgan SheppardChristopher Priest, Jonathan Nolan, Christopher NolanChristopher Nolan, Aaron Ryder, Emma ThomasBuena Vista Pictures