- Adaptation Displacement: You'd be forgiven for not knowing the film was based on a book. After all the book came out in 1995 and the film came out in 2006 (and Christopher Priest's name was nowhere on the advertising).
- Alternate Character Interpretation:
- With The Reveal that Borden is a twin, does he really know which knot he tied when Angier asks him at the funeral? Or is he covering for his brother?
- Likewise did Sarah actually figure out the truth? Was her suicide a reaction to finding out she had been lied to all her life? Or even darker, did she fear she was going mad?
- How much sympathy does Borden actually deserve? As noted under Unintentionally Unsympathetic below even if his twin brother is responsible for the nastier actions, he still fully allowed them to happen and deceived his wife. While Angier and the brother get their dose of Laser-Guided Karma, Borden escapes all consequences of this behaviour and is happily reunited with his daughter.
- Award Snub: It was nominated for only two Academy Awards - Best Art Direction for Nathan Crowley and Best Cinematography for Wally Pfister, losing both. Some accused the Academy of consciously snubbing the film to ensure that The Departed finally delivered Martin Scorsese an Oscar after several Award Snubs of his own, though Christopher Nolan himself said that he wouldn't have expected this film to beat The Departed even if it had been nominated, and that if anything the problem was that The Prestige got released a little too early to take advantage of the usual "Oscar Buzz" season.
- Some people are still miffed that Christian Bale didn't get an Oscar nomination for his work for this film. Though to be fair, his performance is something that you really need to watch at least twice, in order to fully understand how subtle and brilliant he was, given he is actually playing two characters.
- Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Even though Borden and Angier are the main characters of the movie, neither is truly a protagonist or an antagonist to root for or against respectively. They're both simply deeply flawed individuals, and the audience must watch as they ruin the lives of themselves and their loved ones.
- Foe Yay: Borden and Angier pretty much personify this trope. Lampshaded in the book when Olivia tells Angier that he and Borden "are like two lovers who can't get along together."
- In the movie, the words are "You should go to him. You two deserve each other."
- Jerkass Woobie: Both Angier and Borden. Angier is also a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
- Magnificent Bastard: Both Angier and Borden.
- Moral Event Horizon: The Reveal. The fact that Lord Cauldlow killed his clones hundreds of times just to beat his long-standing rival. Though, on the other hand, its a little unclear if that's what happened, or if the machine worked the same way it always did, with the clone created some distance away. In that case the real Angier died ages ago, and he and his clones have been committed suicide over and over again, until Borden could be framed, and the surviving one at the end is another clone. This makes him more insane.}
- The first time Angier cloned himself, he killed the other Angier that appeared some distance away, with us not knowing if he killed a clone, or his real self. Which means, if the real Angier appeared outside the machine, or if he was inside the machine all along, it doesn't matter; the real Angier was dead the first or the second time he used the machine himself.
- Disregarding the philosophical debates of the moments mentioned above, an undeniable Moral Event Horizon was letting Borden take the fall for his murder, and then taking his daughter Jess into custody.
- Rewatch Bonus:
- In spades. This film is even more interesting to watch once you know Christian Bale is playing two characters. It takes some careful analysis of the plot and close attention to the performance, but the two twins have very distinct personalities, and Christian Bale plays them differently, in a subtle way. Even their accents are slightly different, especially when angry or drunk (when the facade is weakest). This is particularly impressive, since it is a subtlety of acting performance that not only won't an audience likely get the first time through, they're NOT EVEN SUPPOSED TO. Which leads to an extra bit of Fridge Brilliance when you realize there's another art form that involves the artist doing a lot of work that the audience isn't supposed to notice—magic.
- The film contains a significant amount of symbolism and Foreshadowing that can be properly appreciated on second viewing. A viewer almost gets the impression that Christopher Nolan is enjoying teasing the audience.
- Rule of Sean Connery: David Bowie and Michael Caine, the former of whom only appears for maybe ten minutes.
- Slobs Versus Snobs: Working-class cockney Borden and aristocratic Lord Cawdlow (Angier)
- Tear Jerker: On a second viewing Borden and Fallon's final goodbye is heartbreaking.
- The bird trick, once you learn how it works, as one little boy does.
- Angier's death and his parting words with Borden.. Even after everything he did, you can't help but weep.
- Unintentionally Unsympathetic: The Reveal shows that Borden is actually a twin, and the bad twin is responsible for the affair with Olivia and most of the nasty things Borden does. Notably Borden still deceived his wife and allowed his brother to enter their bed. Fridge Horror if Sarah actually ever slept with the twin, thinking it was her husband. And likewise the 'good' twin still carried on an affair with Olivia, despite knowing how much it was upsetting Sarah. All out of dedication to the craft. Not once is this kind of behaviour called out.
- The Woobie:
Tesla: Go home. Forget this thing. I can recognize an obsession, no good will come of it.
- Sarah. Having to put up with a husband who loves you one day, then is emotionally abusive the next will take it's toll on anyone. Even more when she figures out that she has been manipulated and used by two men her entire life: she almost immediately hangs herself.
- Tesla. Just consider this exchange:
Angier: Why, haven't good come of your obsessions?
Tesla: Well at first. But I followed them too long. I'm their slave... and one day they'll choose to destroy me.