Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie
Director: Christopher Nolan
Release Date: 20 October 2006
Length: 130 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
“At the dawn of the 20th century, rival magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) endeavor to reveal each other’s secrets. Obsessed by the escalating competition, the two illusionists begin to perform increasingly risky tricks, which soon turn deadly. Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and David Bowie also star in this taut psychological thriller from director Christopher Nolan.” — Netflix.com
I struggled with this movie. It is really well made, very gripping and intense, but I just didn’t like it. The characters are brutal and willing to do anything that it takes to get to the top and they do not care about what collateral damage they leave behind. It is a very dark film. It is filmed in a dark style with lots of shadows, muted shades of grey and black and the characters are very dark. I don’t think that I could come up with any redeeming features for the two leads, played by Hugh Jackman & Christian Bale, and found that I had no one to root for. When you are watching the story unfold between 2 villains who are battling for supremacy, who do you cheer for?
The magic tricks were really cool and it was interesting to see how magicians prepare, promote and execute their tricks. They take tremendous risks, especially back then, where you would literally guard your secrets with your life rather than share and have someone to bail you out if things went wrong. The turn of the century cities were shown as very dark, gloomy places with everyone scared to step into the sun, hugging the shadows and trying to stay out of the way. The musical score was very nice and the acting was excellent.
If you look at the names in this movie, you know that you are going to get something that is technically excellent, but there was no soul, no spirit in the movie for me. I was stunned by the ending and shocked by the escalating battle between the 2 magicians. This movie is definitely not for the faint of heart, even though nothing particularly gory is shown. The story is interesting, but very convoluted, perhaps with a few too many plot twists and unexpected events. You cannot look away for a moment or you will miss something important. So, because the movie is so well made, I gave it a 3.5 start rating, but again, I found this movie oddly repulsive and will never want to see it again. I am not grading it down because I personally did not like the ending, I am grading it down because I had a visceral response against this movie and cannot say that I liked it.
This movie contains a lot of violence. Many people die or are injured during magical performances. One of the main themes is revenge and the actors feel like there is no price to high to pay to achieve this. There are a few sensual scenes, some abusive moments between Christian Bale’s character and his girlfriend, and other mature themes. This movie is dark, intense and heavy. Recommended for ages 16 and up.