Movie Copycats # 15: “A Trick is Something a Whore Does for Money.”

The Victims: Fans of turn of the century based literature.

The Perpetrators: 

The Illusionist - Bull's Eye Entertainment (September 1st 2006) Directed by Neil Burger, Based on the short story ""Eisenheim the Illusionist", by Steven Millhauser, Adapted by Neil Burger.

The Prestige - Touchstone Pictures (October 20th 2006) Directed by Christopher Nolan, Based on the Novel by Christopher Priest, Adapted by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan

Similarities: Both films are about magicians in turn of the 20th century Europe with tricks that defy reality.  There’s also a dash of romance thrown in along the way.

Differences: Although both films are set during the same time period and deal with discovering secrets behind magic tricks, the sub genres of the two films are very different.  The Illusionist comes across as a Romeo and Juliet type political thriller and The Prestige is more like a tragic science fiction crime thriller.  I know that seems like a lot to shove into either film but both succeed in handling the different facets of their stories very well.

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*Spoiler Alert*

Jessica Biel and Edward Norton - (The Illusionist 2006)

In The Illusionist, the magician Eisenheim (Edward Norton) comes to fame after a less than privileged youth as the poor son of a cabinetmaker.  In his youth he befriends the Duchess Sophie (Jessica Biel) and falls in love.  As is tradition in such cases of drastic social differences they can not be together so Eisenheim goes off to become an amazing magician and Sophie goes on to live the life a noble woman should live.  They end up

Rufus Sewell - (The Illusionist 2006)

reuniting at the peak of Eisenheim’s success at one of his shows where they rekindle their love affair.  Of course this doesn’t bode well with Spohie’s fiance’ the notorious Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell).  Leopold hires Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) to follow them and in turn he becomes the character in the script obbsessed with discovering the magician’s secrets.  A chracter type common in both films I suppose it’s necessary in a film about a “illusionist” . . .

Pual Giamati - (The Illusionist 2006)

Sophie enlists the help of Eisenheim in order to prevent Leopold from assinating his father in order to gain control of the throne.  However Leopold confronts Sophie and after she mysteriously disapears it is rumored that Leopold has murdered her.  Eisenheim is put under suspicion by Leopold and Inspector Uhl is sent to investigate him.  Basically Eisenheim puts in motion a sequence of events that gains retribution for Sophie who was “murdered”, leading the Inspector to Leopold who kills himself when confronted with his guilt.  It’s very Shawshank . . . that includes the ending *wink*.

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Hugh Jackman - (The Prestige 2006)

Christian Bale - (The Prestige 2006)

The Prestige sets off like a crime thriller with magician Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) on trial for the murder of his colleague/rival Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman).  Flashing back to when Borden and Angier were first making a name for themselves we see that the two were friends.  While working under another magician Angier’s wife Julia McCullough (Piper Perabo) dies when a trick goes horribly wrong.  Since Borden assisted on this particular trick Angier blames him and they begin rival careers.  Angier copies Borden’s work until he comes across a trick he cannot mimic.  This sets him off to discover Borden’s secrets and steal them from him.

Scarlet Johansen - (The Prestige 2006)

Piper Perabo - (The Prestige 2006)

It sets in motion a very complex web of events with Borden marrying Sarah Borden (Rebecca Hall) and having a daughter, Jess (Samantha Mahurin).  While he lives his happy life and successful career Angier can only think of sabotaging him and finding out the inner workings of his act.  He enlists his assistant Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) to find out his secrets but she ends up falling for Borden and turning on Angier.  Women.

David Bowie - (The Prestige 2006)

After a series of double crosses and intimidation Angier is able to discover that Borden enlisted the help of one Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) in his most notorious act, “The Transported Man”.  All I will go onto say is that the technology Tesla has designed is used to assist Borden and Angier but one chooses to use it in a far more sinister way then the other.

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Verdict: This one is a tie.  Both of these films are well crafted by Directors who really respected the original stories they were based on.  This is just another example of how a filmmaker having their hand in the writing and production of a film results in a more cohesive and successful story.  Yes both films are very similar but the plots have enough difference to make them unique and fresh to watch on their own.  I will say that The Prestige is the film with the most richness in story which is mostly due to the fact that it is based on an extremely intricate novel and not just a short story like The Illusionist.  If you haven’t seen both you need to.

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About whataconceptblog

I am gamer who enjoys writing about video games and various other topics of the eccentric kind.
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2 Responses to Movie Copycats # 15: “A Trick is Something a Whore Does for Money.”

  1. I watched this beautiful movie of Illusionist and I loved the acting of Neil, Jessica.
    I recommend this movie to be watched by other friends.

  2. fiddles says:

    The sexism and hollow roles of the women kept me from really loving these films, though I do enjoy the twists (one being more likable than the other due to less plot holes).

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