Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, based on the novel by Christopher Priest
Before he made superhero movies, Nolan made weird dark twisty movies like this and Memento (which is also on the list, but higher up). I remember in 2006 this and The Illusionist were both released within a couple of weeks of each other and I think most of the people I know went to one or the other. Which is a pity because both films are fantastic and very different, for all they’re both about famous magicians and undecipherable illusions.
Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman both shine in this film, as masters of their craft. Men who used to be friends but who tragedy tore apart, pride and accidents and massive arguments. There is also excellent support from Piper Berabo, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, Michael Caine, David Bowie and Scarlett Johanssen
It’s fascinating, watching the movie again and knowing what the big twists are. Seeing the hints all through and what it means for the ending… for the human cost of the things that they do. The pain of the women in Borden’s life and the things he does to them. And then the slowly escalating cycle of revenge, the things that Angier does to get Borden’s secret, when amazingly – watching it again – the secret is mentioned several times, and by Borden himself.
The design is beautifully steampunk, especially the illusion contraptions and everything Tesla. I love the costumes, the sets, the beautiful landscape of Victorian London, grimy and hard. The film’s mostly grey palette makes it all seem grimier as well.
Does it make me love the people? It does. The start of the film is full of sympathetic scenes, them trying so hard to be good magicians. I especially feel for the women, who serve mostly as beloved prizes or pawns in the two men’s nasty game. It’s hard to pick a side between Borden and Angier as they both do incredibly cold things, but ultimately Algiers doesn’t damage as many innocents as Borden does, which puts me slightly more on his side. Mostly Angier is hurting himself. Very very badly.
Bechdel test: The little girl never even talks to her mother, even though they’re in the same scenes. The conversation is always through a man. There are numerous named women, but they exist in the orbit of the two men.
Alfred Borden: The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything.
Alfred Borden: I love you.
Sarah: You mean it today.
Alfred Borden: Of course.
Sarah: It just makes it so much harder when you don’t.
Robert Angier: No one cares about the man in the box, the man who disappears.
State of Mind: It isn’t as dark and nasty as I remembered, or maybe I’m more desensitised now. I do love this movie, there’s so much interesting detail and watching closely to see how it’s done, much like the magic tricks the story is concerned with.