I can’t avoid comparing The Prestige with The Illusionist, a movie that I saw a couple of months ago. Both are rather dark stories about stage magicians practicing their craft in Europe about one hundred years ago.
However they are actually quite different. The Illusionist is fundamentally a romantic tale of the supernatural. The Prestige is a grittier story with no supernatural elements (science fiction maybe, but nothing supernatural). Most people will probably prefer the ending of The Illusionist but from a purely technical standpoint The Prestige is the superior film: exquisitely crafted with a tight though convoluted plot.
Two young magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) start out as friends, but become bitter rivals after Angier blames Borden for the accidental death of his wife. Their rivalry becomes increasingly destructive, threatening to destroy them and everyone around them. Michael Caine delivers a memorable performance as “Cutter” an engineer who designs stage illusions, and David Bowie appears as the mad genius Nikola Tesla, “the man who invented the twentieth century”.
The film is thrilling but very dark. I consider the ending satisfactory but I wouldn’t necessarily call it “happy”.