Nothing Is What It Seems In 'The Prestige'

"Are you watching closely?"

That's the catch phrase for magician Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) in Christopher Nolan's latest flick "The Prestige," also starring Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson.

And indeed, if you do not watch closely, you're bound to miss something along the way. But if you're looking for the secrets to magic and illusion, you'll be disappointed.

With Nolan, Caine and Bale, "The Prestige" reunites the triumvirate that made "Batman Begins" such a good movie two summers ago, except this time Caine's "Alfred" is not working for The Caped Crusader, but for Wolverine!

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And while this movie offers mystery, intrigue and is at least more interesting than Johansson's latest movie, "The Black Dahlia," you'll still find yourself hoping for the end credits to roll.

The movie drags along with the convoluted plot points and cerebral machinations that Nolan ("Memento") has become known for.

The difference here from so many other movies of 2006 is the payoff is actually worth the wait.

In the final moments of the movie, everything comes together very nicely, but still leaves one wondering why these characters are willing to sacrifice so much for their art.

Jackman plays illusionist Robert Angier, a performer with a secret who loses his beautiful wife during a water tank trick that haunts him for years to come and gives him the illusion that his icy obsession with a rival magician has license.

Bale is his rival, a young, determined performer with an even bigger secret and perhaps an even colder heart. The fact that it was he who caused Angier's wife's death helps move the plot along.

Each will stop at no lengths to derail the other, including a trip from England to America for a visit to Nikola Tesla, a scientist fighting his own bitter rivalry with one Thomas Edison.

The fact that Tesla is played by none other than David Bowie only makes his character more cool.

About the only thing about "The Prestige" — which incidentally, is a term magicians use to describe their show-stopping act — that I can tell you without ruining the movie is that the screen lights up whenever Scarlett Johansson appears.

Her talent, however, can barely keep up with her beauty — a forgivable circumstance considering her career has so far been made up of playing the other woman in some way, shape or form in pretty good movies.

The good news is this is not Johansson's movie, but Hugh Jackman's, and he does not disappoint. The always-interesting (at least since "The Cider House Rules") Caine adds a touch of class that makes this long day's journey into night somewhat worthwhile, and Bale's patented angst and barely subdued anger make for an explosive performer.

He's Russell Crowe without the phone.

Keeping it Reel? "The Prestige" isn't the best movie in theaters (that honor goes to "The Departed"), but it's one of the best of all the so-called "adult" offerings out there, and worth the price of the ticket.

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