From the novel of the same name by Christopher Priest.
This is the short review, the long review has spoilers. If you don’t care about finding out the big woo-woo surprise ending (and you shouldn’t, it really annoyed both me and Mr. Otter) then go there and read the whole thing.
But truly, there are not only senseless things in this plot that made both Mr. Otter and me scratch our heads and say, “Huh?” but the ending did annoy us. Hugh Jackman was just a whineyboy, and the only really good thing about this movie was Michael Caine (serious honey, even in his 70s) who managed to maintain his position outside all the rest of these annoying people.
Oh, David Bowie was good too, but it sure didn’t look like him.
Anyway. If you MUST see this, rent it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. About the stupid ending. And how annoying it was. Did I mention that the ending annoyed me?
Because it did.
Mr. Otter too, it wasn’t just me.
Who got all annoyed.
At the ending.
Because it was.
This is the long review, and it has spoilers. I am (like this movie) going to give away ALL THE SECRETS. If you really want to see this and be (annoyed) surprised by the ending, don’t read any further until you see it.
On the other hand, I may save you a few bucks and two hours of time.
Mr. Otter and I had just watched The Illusionist with Maid-of-Awesome and loved it. A beautiful little gem of a movie. So I was all ready to see this other ‘historical magician movie’ when Railroad David (who had not seen it either, and a good thing, since we would have had to kill him if he had actually known what this movie was about and talked us into spending an evening with it) suggested we watch it. So we did. And I really wanted to like it.
And it wasn’t the bird-killing thing, although I know people who would be horrified and outraged by that…and I hear that many professional magicians are really angry that the secrets to so many tricks were exposed in this film. But we still really tried to like it…and we just couldn’t.
There was much more to our COMPLETE AND TOTAL ANNOYANCE than that.
To start with, both the main characters in the movie are whineyboys obsessed with oneupsmanship. This was not about wanting to be the best, this was defining ‘best’ as ‘he who tramples the competition down furthest by doing stuff to sabotage him’. Hugh Jackman (not the serious honey referenced above) spent the whole time mooning around jealous of Christian Bale’s wife and child. Meanwhile Bale is angry because he wants to be the best and is just never happy with what he has. Just a couple of whineyboys. Annoying.
Then there’s that whole thing about what kind of knot Bale tied around Jackman’s wife’s hands. I’m sorry, but this whole debate made no sense whatever. The kind of knot used had been a bone of contention between all three of them. Even in the shock of her drowning, you’d think the first thing someone would do is to look at the knot (maybe as her hands were untied?) And she drowned in under two minutes (as did the guy at the end)? What with her EXPECTING to be dumped into water, you’d think she’d be holding her breath just in case, since she had to know that Michael Caine always stood by with the axe and timed the submersion. Annoying.
So then Jackman is reading the diary, and the assumption (at first) is that this is after the trial that starts the whole thing off…and we realize that it’s not after the trial, but before, and that we don’t know who died in the water…and we eventually suspect that it was the double Jackman hired to do the illusion. Okay. Then he meets Tesla and the whole thing about the hats and the two cats comes out. And he gets the machine. And he does the trick. And my thought was, wait a minute, the machine doesn’t teleport, it makes copies…so where are all his copies?
And of course we find out he’s been killing them every night. Even that was not annoying, although hard to swallow…highly unlikely that A) he’d do it, B) he’d be able to get rid of 100 bodies (one a night) and C) he’d find people who wouldn’t talk about disposing of them. Plus of course every time he did it he was killing himself…creepy. And also, the last time Jackman did it, when Bale found the tank and saw him/his double die…Jackman didn’t know about that abovestage, so how come he didn’t come popping out from above the audience again like he usually did? hm…not clear, but not so annoying. Just puzzling.
I figured that Bale’s factotum, I think his name was Forrest, was a plant, although I thought he might have been Jackman’s double…but no. Nothing as believeable as that.
Because that was the REALLY ANNOYING THING, the thing that really got to me and Mr. Otter, the thing that made us boo and hiss at the closing credits: the TWIN THING. Yes, they did try to set it up, they referred to magicians living their lives to lend belief to the illusions they create, but really. There was NO WAY the viewer could have assumed that Bale not only had a twin, but that they were sharing one life in order to do better magic tricks
This is the reason I don’t like most mystery novels, because it just PISSES ME OFF when an author pretends to give you the information you need to figure out what is going on, and then pulls a rabbit (or a twin) out of a hat. Not only a really old, stale solution, but a REALLY FRICKIN’ ANNOYING ONE.
So there’s my $.02, and I’m damn glad I didn’t (as I was tempted to) pay ten bucks to see that in the movie theater, because I would REALLY have been steamed then. Yes, Michael Caine (serious honey) is in this, and is very good, as are David Bowie as Tesla and Roger Rees as the go-between. The scenes were good, a lot of the plot was interesting (except for the annoying parts) and there were several good actors.
So for all of you who ignored the spoiler warning and read this anyway, even though you hadn’t seen the movie…I h