After watching the 2-hour film adaptation of this 1995 novel, I've come to the conclusion that "The Departed" was NOT the best film of 2006. "The Prestige," with an all-star cast including Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and David Bowie, really should have won Best Picture. Because as far as 2006 goes, that's exactly what it was.
This fantastic film mixing drama, adventure, thrills, magic, and mystery was hailed by critics following its initial release as being superior to the novel from which it was adapted, and yeah ... there's really no other way to describe it other than a "truly commendable, gut-wrenchingly amazing masterpiece." The brilliant cinematography, the great directing from Christopher Nolan, the amazing acting job on the parts of Jackman, Bale, Johansson, and everyone else involved, and the phenomenal plot and storytelling are just a few of the reasons why "The Prestige" kicked butt both at the box office as well as in critical reviews.
The film plays out, as in the novel, nonlinearly, meaning the events that occur onscreen do not happen chronologically in that order. However, as confusing as this may sound, it really is not, because the film organizes and delivers everything so well that the plot is easy to pick up, while remaining complex at the same time. An important idea introduced in the beginning of the film and revisited at the end is the existence of the "three stages of a magic trick," those being the "pledge," the "turn," and finally, the "prestige."
As for the plot itself, comic book movie megastars Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play the rivaling magicians Alfred Borden and Robert Angier, respectively. And if you think that you can label one as the heroic protagonist and the other as the villainous antagonist, you're wrong. In fact, neither character is noble or true in the least, and yet viewers are able to relate to and sympathize with both, probably because their actions and emotions throughout the film represent those of real people.
The storyline is really far too drawn out (not a negative thing in this case) and far too complicated to get into without spoiling most of the plot, but I will say this. There are certain themes, events, and gags, if you will, that run throughout the film that play a major role in the overall conclusion. In fact, the ending actually holds not one, but TWO huge twists, one for each of the main characters. And yeah, your jaw will drop to the floor at the very end of the film. A movie with such amazing storytelling and such brilliant performances would be nothing without a shocking, but not at all cheap, ending.
The DVD comes up short as far as special features are concerned. It includes a few "making-of" featurettes, the original trailer, a conceptual art gallery, a short documentary, and some commentary as well. But quite frankly, who really cares? "The Prestige" is such a fantastic film that no DVD extras are necessary, because it's the 130 minute movie, with tons of rewatch value, that people are really going to enjoy. And finally, I promise you, if you're not already a fan of Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, and Christian Bale, you will be after this film.