Viewed – 10 November 2007 DVD
Christopher Nolan is slowly becoming a sort after director, what with intelligent thrillers like Memento & Insomnia, then reinventing the dark knight for Batman Begins, naturally the idea of him adding his obvious talent to a historical mystery revolving around rival magicians is more than an intreaguing prospect.
Christian Balle & Hugh Jackman play the once best friends that turn against each other after a magic trick leaves Jackman’s wife dead, and a bitter battle of witts to win the crowd with ever more impossible feats of magic follows. Michael Caine plays Jackman & Balle’s ageing mentor and almost steals the show due to his natural screen presence. Add to this a sultry but unremarkable Scarlette Johansson as the magician’s assistant who unbelievably manages to steal both men’s hearts in an under-written subplot…and this film seems padded out to the brim. The initial concept is gripping, and the historical atmosphere is spot-on, but as things begin to turn nasty between the fueding magicians, we also fall into the realm of fantasy and outlandish effects that stopped this viewer believing or even caring – and I love magic tricks!
So a well cast film, with an under developed script that just gets a bit silly (let’s not mention David Bowie)…and even though the final pay off makes you gasp – it also headlines that perhaps keeping it all believable should have been the way to go.
Verdict: 2 /5