The Prestige Spoiler Thread

So Justin Fletcher can talk about much he fucking adored this movie.

A couple questions I had:

  1. At the end, Angier says something like “Every time I did the trick, it took courage. I never knew whether I would live or not.” What does he mean? He knows he will die every time. Only his clone will live, and he knows his clone will live every time (until the next night – unless Borden appears). The people I saw it with thought maybe he means “I didn’t know if the clone was really me (i.e., my life continues) or the clone was someone “else” (i.e., my life ends and a new person’s life begins).” Is that what he’s getting at?

  2. On the night Borden goes to the basement, how does the clone know not to come out on the balcony? Nobody sees Borden down there except Original Angier (who is trapped in the water tank) and Cutter (who isn’t in on the trick). Are we supposed to assume that Angier recognizes Borden when he comes up to examine the machine, and then just assumes Borden will also go down and watch what happens below? Seems like a really big assumption. And how did Angier know Borden would get caught? Cutter isn’t supposed to be there, so under the original plan nobody would see Borden in the basement (the stagehands are all blind). Once Angier drowns, Borden could simply walk out of the theater (except that Cutter happens to go down there and grab him).

  3. When Angier shows up in Colorado, he tells Gollum that he wants Ziggy Stardust to build him the same machine they made for Borden. Gollum says something like “Why would you want the same thing we built for another magician?” and Angier says “Call it professional rivalry” or something like that. But then later it turns out that Borden never got a machine from them at all, right? It was all a wild-goose-chase that Borden faked up in his diary. So what is Gollum talking about? Are he and Tesla supposed to be in on the joke?

Despite all those things that seemed really odd to me, this was a terrific movie. I loved the way the same themes get echoed in different ways – “getting your hands dirty,” both in the rivalry and in doing magic tricks (killing the birds, killing the clones); the way the audience is supposed to know, in their hearts, how it’s all done but want to pretend they don’t (esp. with the kid who is too young to realize he needs to protect himself by pretending – “You killed his brother”), which has many applications to life…; the way obession twists the lives of Angier, and Borden, and Tesla; etc. I also really liked the mirror-images of Angier and Borden’s lives, one with the secret identical twin, the other with secret clones, the sacrificing for each other, the lifelong obessions, etc. Great stuff. I didn’t figure out the twist with the twin until they explained it. Figuring out the trick with the clone was pretty easy, but I think it was supposed to be – you, in the audience, are supposed to be able to figure it out and be horrified before they explain it, which I think dovetails really nicely with the movie’s theme of “the audience always knows the trick but wants to be fooled.”

So I loved the story and screenplay. It also looked great and was well-acted all around (including by David Bowie – who knew??). I liked that you had to pay attention to keep up. The diary-within-a-diary thing worked really well I thought. Good stuff all around. And that little bit of sci-fi at the end was really cool and worked perfectly I thought.

  1. Yes. For all he knows, all he’ll feel is a tortuous death.

  2. Because Borden was screaming from under the stage for someone to help, which stopped the show. There was an establishing shot from the aud showing the audience hear Borden screaming. The movie is ambiguous about whether Angier’s plan was to set up Borden, or he just wanted to trump him with a superior trick - it actually seems like the latter, and he just opportunistically took advantage of the chance to frame him when he was “discovered” in the tank.

  3. American psycho did get a machine from Tesla, just not the same machine - he added tesla coils to his transported man show after the initial performances. But it was mainly a wild goose chase – the one part of the script that somewhat falls apart, in my opinion, is that Batman sent him on a goose chase, but the chase coincidentally led him to real magic.

David Bowie really was awesome in that role.

Let me take this moment to say that Cutter’s line, “What he really felt was agony,” was fucking awesome. That was probably the best part of the movie for me. Such a simple and subtle, but devastating and complete, repudiation of Angier and his obsession. Great stuff.

I actually like the idea of Angier’s line (not knowing whether he will live or die) being a philosophical one. Not just the question of will “I” continue to experience life, but the question (if it’s a separate question) of whether the clones are really Angier, or if they are some separate thing that merely thinks it’s Angier. Same sort of question that comes up when you get philosophical about Star Trek transporters, or the Christian idea of resurrection, etc. Not the sort of thing I expected to be hit with in a movie thriller.

The movie is ambiguous about whether Angier’s plan was to set up Borden, or he just wanted to trump him with a superior trick - it actually seems like the latter, and he just opportunistically took advantage of the chance to frame him when he was “discovered” in the tank.

I think you’re right, now that you say it. When I saw the movie I assumed that framing Borden was Angier’s plan all along, but I think this interpretation makes more sense – because the plan to frame Borden is just totally unpredictable.

So what was with the limited engagement of only 100 shows for the final run? Why did they go emphasize that? And did he have all of those dead clones still in the tanks under the stage? That was kind of a creepy moment right at the end when you see one of them in the tank.

I have a feeling they emphasized that because of storage or tank limitations. He had enough room to store 100 tanks or he only had 100 tanks.

What I wonder about is how Angier got so much money. He kept saying that Borden had taken everything from him and there were times in the movie where he didn’t seem particularly well off but then he is travelling all over the place and staying in a fancy hotel with unlimited funds.

Also, it didn’t really occur to me that Fallon was actually Borden’s twin brother, I thought he actually had used Tesla’s machine and just kept the clone alive. But then realized that the timeline of the movie would then make no sense and better yet, with the twin brother it fits even better into the idea of sacrificing for your magic act like the old crippled Chinese magician. The idea that two men would share one life just so they could do the ultimate magic trick really brings that point home. Plus, like its said in the movie, once we know the secret of Borden’s trick, yeah, its not so great (oh yeah… he used a double) but that fits so perfectly into the theme of the movie.

Man… the more I think about this movie the more I realize how brilliantly it was conceived and executed.

He really was a Lord. You’ll remember the early scene with his wife where he talks about taking a stage name at the behest of his family.

Right right, ok so now even that fits in for me. Yeah, this movie is pretty great.

The one bit I’m still unclear on: Why was Cutter testifying against Borden? Did he know at the time that Borden was innocent or not?

On the one hand, he doesn’t seem to know: He appears to be surprised to find (an) Angier alive at the end, and he seems shocked to realize what the real plan was. On the other hand, he’s trying to destroy the Tesla device–why, if he doesn’t know how it works?

I can’t make sense out of his motivations.

When I saw the movie I assumed that framing Borden was Angier’s plan all along, but I think this interpretation makes more sense – because the plan to frame Borden is just totally unpredictable.

You were right the first time. That’s “how” the clone knows not to show up on the balcony. Desslock’s explanation doesn’t work because the trick is instanteous, Borden doesn’t start yelling for a few seconds. The clone not showing up was the whole case against Borden.

I echo Damien Neil’s questions about Cutter’s motivations. One possible explanation was that he didn’t know what was going on when he testified but in the ensuing days/weeks he gradually figures it all out and/or is found by Fallon.

I deduced the twin brother twist pretty early, but I absolutely love it. The way so many little throwaway lines(this is a day you mean it, makeup, the stuff about Borden’s journal having internal conflict…) all reference it.

Ah, that explains the “I always have been” line. Awesome!

I don’t think so. I mean, if you accept the first theory (that this was the plan all along), you have problems: How did Angier know that Borden would go beneath the stage? How did Angier expect to implicate Borden in the murder (remember that Cutter’s presence is just coincidence)? It just doesn’t make sense. If you accept the second theory (the frame-up is spur-of-the-moment), you’re right that there’s a problem with the timing, but that seems a lot smaller than the problems with theory #1. Also, remember that the clone doesn’t come out right away during the trick – part of the trick is that he gives the audience time to look around and go “where’d he go?” and whatever.

Re: Cutter, I think he doesn’t know about the cloning until he sees Angier as Lord Whatever-His-Name-Was. I thought that he wanted to destroy the machine because it was a symbol of Angier’s deadly (Cutter thought) obsession. Remember, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Cutter – when Angier says he’s going to America to procure the machine, that’s when Cutter says he’s done with the whole thing.

I agree about the twin – they did a great job putting clues in there that made total sense after you see the twist.

You could also say that Angier improvised his plan when he spotted Borden in the theater and called him up to stage. The clone would know not to come up to the balcony because he had it in mind before he cloned himself.

He genuinely thought Borden was responsible for Angier’s death. Up until he follows Borden below the stage to see Angier drown, he’d never been down there, and never seen the water tank. At that point and through the trial, he thinks Borden killed Angier. The only hitch there for me is that he sees Borden desperately trying to bust Angier out of the tank, but you could right that off as panicked regret.

It isn’t until he meets Angier in his identity as Lord Whatshisname that Cutter starts to put it all together. After that meeting he decides that Angier is a monster in more ways than one – setting up Borden to hang*, then murdering the clones night after night. So offscreen he goes and explains everything to Fallon. This is clear from two small details: when Cutter passes Fallon in the street outside the theater and they nod at each other in acknowledgment (Cutter would never have let Fallon anywhere near the theater if he was still on Angier’s side), and when Fallon/Borden doesn’t bat an eye at Angier’s revelation of sacrefice and the basement full of dead clones (Cutter had briefed him). I think Cutter was supposed to be the moral center of the film, so it’s only in that penultimate scene with Angier that he’s duplicitous in any way (by not letting on that Fallon’s coming for Angier).

Fun movie, immensely entertaining. The only things that bugged me were the anachronisms in the dialogue (“This thing’s gonna blow,” “I’ll phase it out,” and a few others felt out of place).

*I do think it was an intentional frame job. The whole reason Angier staged the last set of shows was to get Borden’s attention, and not to just to say, “Hey, check out my new trick neener neener,” it was to bury him for good. He wouldn’t have pursued their rivalry so obsessivley and with such dire consequences (killing himself night after night) just to prove he’d learned the trick. Remember, he thinks Borden is responsible for his wife’s death and wants revenge at all costs.

I actually hated that Angier dies. When you tally up what these two did to each other I still think Angier came out losing.

  1. Killed wife

  2. Dove cage/hands

  3. Removed bed / broke leg

  4. Root

  5. Goose chase to Colorado for 2 years

  6. Bullet catch

  7. Crime he did not commit ends in death for one brother

Borden was smarted then Angier and ahead of him all the way. Borden did way more to destroy himself with his secret life then Angier did. I suppose he had to die but still left me feeling like Borden won after doing all the above. Which Borden died to you think? The one in love with his wife or the one in love with Olivia?

This movie has my award for best of 2006

The one in love with Olivia died. At their last meeting in prison he says, “I’m sorry about Sarah” as he’s getting taken away.

Thanks Animus. I missed that!

  1. Twin brother buried alive
  2. Career-making act one-upped by rival magician
  3. Daughter made ward of said rival

Granted Angier’s wife died, but it wasn’t really Borden’s fault – she clearly signals him to tie the other kind of knot on the night she drowns. So the whole chain of revenge is set off by Angier’s unwillingness to recognize his wife’s complicity in her own death.

I loved the set-up for the drowning scene where they show Cutter checking the axe in an earlier performance, then using the axe when things go south. That sort of thing happened a lot with escape artists at the time, so it was cool to see Nolan incorporate it into the story.

I thought the movie was well done and fairly consistent, but I think I was hoping for more interesting conclusion that made sense of everything in an unexpected way.

Both the twin and clone twists were telegraphed fairly blatantly in advance. I kept thinking that it’d be cool if hints for both were going to end up being misdirection, and that there was actually some other, uber-explanation that resolved everything in a way contrary to what the build-up would have you think (but still consistent with everything we had seen, ala 6th Sense).

You rock!

Speaking of rocking, The Prestige does, too! I fucking adored this movie. Let me weigh in on the current debates:

The frame was absolutely intentional. Angier said something about only doing 100 shows in order to pique Bordon’s interest. I think Angier would have tried to kill or confine the “original” him anyway; judging from his reaction to the first clone, it seemed pretty clear that he thought the process was an abomination (that’s also why he intended to see the machine destroyed). Of course, he didn’t let that stop him using it in his quest for revenge.

I, too, think he recognized Bordon that night (Christ, they’d had enough practice spotting each other through the fake beards), chose him intentionally, and hid at the end of the act to allow his “original” corpse to be found with Bordon. Even if he didn’t expect Bordon to try and save him, he would have known that a delay in his return would alert Cutter, much like it had with Angier’s wife.

I puzzled over Angier’s final comment about sacrifice, too. I think it’s meant literally as well as philosophically. As far as the duplicate is concerned, he teleported. His memory is that he was in one place one moment and another place the next. However, he knows that he also drowned, even though he doesn’t recall it. He understands intellectually that he must die when the process happens, but his experience tells him otherwise. Thus, Angier is terrified of drowning each night, but there must also be this glimmer of hope that “he” will survive. That uncertainty probably makes it even worse.

This is the one area where I can’t remember enough of the details to make it fit as nicely as I want. Bordon must have gotten his electricity machine from Tesla, but he wouldn’t need/want any actual teleportation because of his brother. So how does Tesla know what Angier is asking for? Did Bordon tell him that, one day, a stranger would approach Tesla and ask him for a teleporter? Tesla kept the ruse going for the money, sure, but maybe the proposition intrigued him so much that he actually tackled the task in earnest. My memory of Angier and Tesla’s conversations is inconclusive.

Angier is American, so how would he get a British title? I assumed his final shows made him so rich that he could buy nobility with no one asking any questions. When the booking agent talked to the theater owner towards the end, he implied that the ticket prices were going to be astronomical.


Cutter testified because he though Bordon did it. The transaction with the judge, the solicitor, and Lord Angier all happened after the trial scene. He’s eager to destroy the machine prior to that because he thinks it’s a teleporter; that’s not something you want casually pulled out at society parties.

Right from the get go he says he was a lords son that had changed his name to protect the family. It was never stated he was American.

The brother was not injured in being buried. They simply captured him and get him occupied so he could walk away with the code.

I agree he spotted Borden coming up to him on the stage. I am sure he knew Borden’s obsession would get the best of him and he would go looking for how it worked.