The Prestige

The Prestige (2006)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, Michael Caine
Extras: Documentary, Featurettes

After delivering a breath-taking thrill ride with his dark comic book adaptation in "Batman Begins, " director Christopher Nolan once again teamed up with actor Christian Bale in another dramatic thriller that is just as mesmerizing. Entitled, "The Prestige, " the film takes us into the world of magicians, stage performers, at the turn of the century and weaves an incredibly intricate story of love, hate, jealousy, rivalry and revenge. With this premise and a cool cast, this DVD immediately worked its way to the top of my to-do list.

Robert (Hugh Jackman) and Albert (Christian Bale) are fierce rivals. They are both aspiring stage magicians, trying to get their own shows while working as plants in the audience for another magician. One day Robert's wife tragically dies during one of the performances as a result of Albert's doing. From that day on, Robert sees Albert not only as a professional rival but as a target also to take revenge. Eventually both get their own shows on the road but with mediocre success. It is only when Albert unveils his Transported Man trick to the world that he gathers fame throughout the Londonderry society. Performing the trick so flawlessly no one is able to figure out how the trick works – not even Robert. Nonetheless, Robert works out his own version of the same trick and spices it up with his charm and showmanship and quickly his version of the Transported Man eclipses Albert's. From this point onward both magicians try to steal each others' tricks regardless of the price.

There is A LOT more complexity to the story than I want to reveal here because part of the fun is how the filmmakers are peeling away layer after layer of these characters and their actions. The film opens with Albert killing Robert and the story is told as a retrospective how things led up to Albert drowning his rival in cold blood and with each new development comes a new reevaluation of the relationship for the viewer, all the way to the film's staggering finale and its mind-numbing closing shot.

The film features a marvelous cast, spearheaded by powerful performances throughout. Especially Jackman and Bale play their characters to the hilt without remorse and without looking back. Michael Caine nicely complements that cast as the quite pole of reasoning for both of them while David Bowie serves up a wonderful cameo as the infamous turn-of-the-century inventor Nikola Tesla with Andy Serkis serving as his assistant – what a combination Gollum and the Goblin King.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment delivers a top notch transfer of the film on this DVD version also. The transfer is absolutely clean and clear. Not a hint of grain or dust is evident giving the image a rock solid look. The movie's cinematography is often held quite dark and brooding to reflect the dimly illuminated London at the turn of the century and as a result the image often contains large areas of shadow. The transfer does a great job at rendering these shadows, making sure details never break up. Black levels are absolutely solid giving the image the contrast is requires and deserves from the deepest blacks to the brightest highlights. Colors are wonderfully rendered with subtle hues and shades bringing out every little detail in textures and lights. Overall this is simply a top notch transfer that makes it a pleasure to view. While the Blu-Ray version adds visible detail and an improved color space over the DVD version, the DVD nonetheless manages to impress with its picture clarity at all times.

To complement the movie, the DVD contains a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track that is balanced and active. The film features some very active moments in which the surround channels are engaged aggressively while at other times the sound stage is very subtle and more ambient in nature. The track reproduces all scenarios without any flaws or problems and the haunting score of the film is also making sure the film performs to its full potential.

A good number of bonus materials make up the special features of the release, including a multi-part behind-the-scenes documentary called "The Sleight Of Hand Of Christopher Nolan" in which you will learn more about the film's production. Among a look at the recreation of Victorian London and the make up of the story, the film also takes a closer look at the genius of Tesla. Another multi-part featurette covers the artistic aspects of the film and includes poster galleries as well as a look at the costumes, the production design and others.

"The Prestige" continues remarkable, unbroken track record of superb and challenging movies that breaks with convention. Like his previous films, it is hard to categorize "The Prestige" as it is a tragedy, a drama, a thriller and a fantasy all wrapped into one. Make sure to check out this film as soon as you have the chance. You will not regret it, I promise.