Many cinephiles have claimed that great films reward repeat viewings and The Prestige does.
**SPOILERS FOR THE PRESTIGE**
Are you watching closely?
This line appears twice in the film. As the opening line of the film and right before Borden is led to his execution. Both times the line proceeds a magic trick (see below), the first is Cutter making a bird disappear/ reappear and the second reveals the truth about Borden.
Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called The Pledge. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t.
The film has 4 central tricks. (from top-left, clockwise) The first is Angier’s Disappearing Man. Second is Borden’s version of the trick. The third is Borden’s execution and reappearance. The last is Cutter making a bird disappear and then reappear.
The second act is called The Turn. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.
Angier clones himself, drowning the original. Borden steps into a wardrobe. Borden is hung. Cutter makes the bird disappear.
That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call The Prestige.
Angier’s clone appears in the balcony. Borden’s brother stops out of the wardrobe. Borden’s brother finds Angier with his prestige materials. Cutter makes the bird reappear.
Are you watching closely?
Do you remember Sarah’s nephew? The boy who cried when the bird was killed for a trick?
Boy: He killed it.
Borden: Look. See? He’s all right. He’s fine. Look at him.
Boy: But where’s his brother?
In other films this would be a throwaway line and the boy would be a plot device to bring Borden and Sarah together. But, in Nolan’s film the boy foreshadows the biggest mystery of the film: How does Borden do his trick? By the end of the film the mystery is revealed.
Angier: A brother? A twin?
Borden: We were both Fallon. We were both Borden.
So, when one brother is killed those who are watching closely would ask, “But where’s his brother?”
ABRA (Abra Cadabra)
Gravity is the latest film from director Alfonso Cuarón, it comes seven years after his previous film Children of Men. Gravity is the new standard for films based in space. From a technical standpoint the film is remarkable. Although largely computer-generated, the first shot of the film lasts for nearly twenty minutes, a feat vacant in other action films. The film is paced almost flawlessly, constantly progressing the story and the action. Half-way though the first shot Cuarón grabs the audience and never lets go.
The weakness of the Gravity is the story. The screenplay was written by Alfonso Cuarón and his son Jonás Cuarón. Gravity centers around Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer in her first journey to space. While working on a satellite docked to the shuttle a debris storm creates a catastrophic chain reaction that sends Stone and fellow astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) adrift in space. Stone and Kowalski devise and attempt to execute a plan to survive the incident. During the journey Stone reveals that she had a daughter who passed away at a young age. Through Stone overcoming her adversity from the space debris, the film becomes an allegory for the process of overcoming loss. The story lacks any subtlety or depth, diminishing the rewatchability of the film.
Sandra Bullock is outstanding in the lead role. She is able to bring life to a character navigating her way through this catastrophe in space as well as her own personal tragedy. George Clooney is sufficient as the veteran astronaut Kowalski, although the character is mostly a plot device to help Stone progress through the film.
The star of the film is the technical team behind the film. Director of Photography, Emmanuel Lubezki along with Cuarón capture amazing and unique shots that give the film a singular look. One of the most impressive elements of the filming process of Gravity is the lighting. An example of the flawless lighting is in the opening scene when Stone is sent spinning through space and the only source of light is the sun reflecting from Earth. The light in the reflection of her visor as well as on her face is in perfect sync. Throughout the film the lighting continues to be perfect. It is evident that the entire production team paid attention to countless details that added to the films overall integrity.
Despite a mediocre story, Gravity relies on superior technical achievements to produce a suspenseful film that will set the bar for years to come.
Here is my first film: ‘The Consequences’
In 2011 Director and Co-Writer Zal Batmanglij premiered Sound of My Voice at the Sundance Film Festival. Two years later he returned to premiere his follow up,The East. With The East, Batmanglij reprises his collaboration with Sound of My Voice Co-Writer and Actress Brit Marling.
The story of The East centers around Sarah (Brit Marling) a former FBI agent turned operative, working for a private security company, Hiller-Brood. Sarah is selected by her boss Sharon (Patricia Clarkson) to infiltrate an underground anarchist group focused on eco-terrorism called The East. Once in the group, Sarah meets several key members of the collective, including: Benji (Alexander Skarsgård), Izzy (Ellen Page), Doc (Toby Kebbell), Thumbs (Aldis Hodge) and Luca (Shiloh Fernandez). Over the course of the film The East take part in ‘jams’ or targeted missions to force the heads of companies to face the truth about what their companies produce. While embedded, Sarah discovers more about each member of the group and what has led to their involvement which leads her to sympathize with the group. Sarah also discovers the true motives of the assignment from Sharon. This leads to a choice for Sarah of which life is real and in which organization she belongs.
Brit Marling is outstanding in the lead. Her character is forced to endure a series of horrific events without breaking her cover, but when she finally faces everything that she has encountered she must decide what path to follow. Alexander Skarsgård gives an understated performance, which fits the character of Benji. Ellen Page is great as Izzy, one of the more eager and relentless members of The East. Patricia Clarkson, Toby Kebbell, Aldis Hodge and Shiloh Fernandez all deliver solid supporting performances.
Through Sarah, The East conveys the idea of morality being a perspective. At the onset of the film Sarah is a diligent and eager employee. Over the course of the film via the actions of The East, Sarah is shown the truth behind several corporations actions, even Hiller-Brood. During a briefing with Sharon she is warned, "If they find out who you really are, they won’t give a second thought to your destruction." In the context of the scene Sharon is referring to The East, however it soon becomes apparent that this statement could also be applied to Hiller-Brood itself. If they find out that Sarah has turned against them, they will destroy her. This leads to the question: Are the East and Hiller-Brood really that different?
The East is a worthwhile thriller that explores a subject scarcely seen on film. The story keeps a steady pace, continually moving and examining new ideas. The performances are strong throughout, most notably Brit Marling. Writer/Director Zal Batmanglij, along with Marling have delivered another exceptional film, hopefully with many more to come.