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YMMV / The Prestige

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  • 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).
  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": Frequently known as "the one where the magician turns out to be cloning himself."
  • 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?
      From Borden's Journal: He came in to demand an answer and I told him the truth. That I have fought with myself over that night, one half of me swearing blind that I tied a simple slipknot, the other half convinced that I tied the Langford double.
      • I read that as the one who didn't was convinced that his twin tied the Langford double and accused him of it, while the other swore he didn't. The one who went to Julia's funeral didn't the the knot, and says he doesn't know what knot was tied because he doesn't know whether to believe his brother.
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    • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: David Bowie has around ten minutes of screen time of Nikola Tesla , but makes them all worth it.
  • 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."
  • Fridge Horror: Which Borden twin did what at any given time?
  • Jerkass Woobie: Both Angier and Borden. Angier is also a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Many first watch the film primarily to see David Bowie as Nikolai Tesla, even moreso because it was one of his only media roles following the 2004 heart attack that motivated him to retire from music for nearly a decade.
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  • Magnificent Bastard: Robert Angier/Lord Caldlow is a genius magician who becomes consumed with revenge after the accidental death of his wife. Blaming fellow magician Alfred Borden for his wife's demise, Angier goes about sabotaging various aspects of Borden's career and life, culminating in an attempt to steal his secrets by burying his assistant alive. After discovering the cloning properties of Nikolai Tesla's machine, Angier uses it to put on perhaps the greatest magic trick the world has ever seen, staging each show so that one of his clones ends up in a drowning trap, knowing that at some point, Borden will stumble on the trap out of curiosity, which will enable Angier the perfect opportunity to frame him. Faking his own death and framing Borden for it, Angier leaves Borden to hang for his "crime", stopping by one final time before his death to reveal the full extent of Angier's manipulations, and even proclaiming he's taking Borden's daughter under his own wing.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Angier letting Borden take the fall for his murder, and then taking his daughter Jess into custody.
      • Assuming that you don't believe that shooting someone to death, even if it was his own clone, is crossing the Horizon....
    • Not that that character doesn't have his own, as the other reveal shows both Bordens exploited the death of their friend's wife, and led two women along for years to the point where one committed suicide, all so that they could prove to themselves that they were one really good magician.
  • 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.
  • 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. There's also the fact that their charade ended causing Julia's accidental death early in the film, and they still decided to carry on with it.
    • A bit lessened by the fact that each twin is considerably colder to the other's lover, Freddie is shown to be not really interested in Sarah, and Alfred is reluctant even to kiss Olivia. They still lie and cheat all the way, but it's implied that each twin at least only has intercourses with his own lover.
  • Vindicated by History: The film was somewhat lukewarmly recieved during its initial release (it only scored a 76% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of Nolan's lowest rated films). Nowadays, it's not uncommon for critics and fans alike to credit The Prestige as Nolan's best work (that the film has a high Rewatch Bonus value has probably helped).
  • The Woobie:
    • 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:
      Tesla: Go home. Forget this thing. I can recognize an obsession, no good will come of it.
      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.


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