The Final Illusion: The Prestige’s Ending Explained

The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan (Inception), features Hugh Jackman (Logan) as Robert Angier and Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises) as Alfred Borden, two rival magicians in London. Nolan’s brother, Jonathan Nolan, collaborated with Nolan to adapt the screenplay from the novel of the same name, by Christopher Priest. Here’s a quick breakdown of the movie’s storyline and a concise explanation of the ending.

Background and Story

The movie starts with Angier and Borden working together as magicians. However, their partnership ends tragically when Angier’s wife, Julia, dies during a magic trick involving a water tank. Angier blames Borden for her death, believing he tied an unsafe knot. This incident fuels a rivalry that becomes the central theme of the movie.

The Rivalry and Magic Tricks

The rivalry escalates as each magician tries to outdo the other with more impressive magic tricks. Borden introduces a trick called the “Transported Man,” where he seemingly teleports between two locations. Angier becomes obsessed with discovering how Borden performs this trick.

The Role of Cutter in The Prestige

In The Prestige, Cutter is a character played by Michael Caine. Cutter is an experienced and skilled stage engineer, responsible for designing and setting up the various apparatuses and illusions used in the performances.

Cutter is also a mentor and advisor to Robert Angier. He’s wise, pragmatic, and morally grounded and is the voice of reason amidst the escalating rivalry between Angier and Alfred Borden.

Tesla’s Machine and Angier’s Obsession

In the context of The Prestige, “Tesla’s machine” refers to a fictional device created by the character Nikola Tesla, played by David Bowie. The machine is a pivotal element in the movie’s plot.

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In the film, Tesla’s machine is an extraordinary invention capable of duplicating any object placed within it, including humans. Angier (Jackman), seeks out Tesla to build this machine with the intention of perfecting “The Transported Man” trick. The trick involves Angier being cloned by the machine, with the clone appearing at a different location while the original falls through a trap door, directly in to a water-filled tank beneath the stage.

David Bowie as Tesla

This machine is entirely a work of fiction and has no basis in real-life technology or the historical inventions of Nikola Tesla. The real Nikola Tesla was an inventor known for the development of alternating current (AC) electrical systems, but he did not create anything resembling the cloning machine depicted in The Prestige.

The Women of The Prestige

Olivia Wenscombe, played by Scarlett Johansson, is initially introduced as Robert Angier’s assistant. She becomes deeply involved in the ongoing rivalry between Angier and Alfred Borden. Angier sends Olivia to spy on Borden to uncover the secret behind his “Transported Man” trick. However, as the plot unfolds, Olivia develops a relationship with Borden, further complicating things.

Sarah Borden, played by Rebecca Hall, is Alfred Borden’s wife. Sarah struggles in her marriage with Borden, particularly in her growing suspicion about his dual life and his obsession with besting Angier.

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Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier

The Revelation

The movie’s ending reveals, shockingly, that Borden has a twin brother, Fallon. They had been living as one person the entire time, switching roles to perform the “Transported Man.” This secret allows Borden to perform his trick without any technological aid, unlike Angier, who sacrifices his clones.

The Final Twist

The final twist occurs when Borden, who is accused of murdering one of the Angier clones, finds Angier and shoots him. Angier admits to his obsession and the use of Tesla’s machine. Borden eventually reunites with his daughter, Jess, and the real Angier dies.

It’s important to note that Alfred Borden’s twin brother, Fallon, is the one wrongly accused of murdering one of Angier’s clones, simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fallon was below the stage in the theater, hoping to discover how “The Transported” Man trick was performed. Fallon’s story sadly ends when he is hung in prison, having been sentenced to death for Angier’s murder. Alfred Borden is alive and well, but most importantly, free.

The film ends with Cutter narrating about sacrifice and the ultimate cost of secrets in magic. The Prestige has an audience score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and is widely considered yet another Christopher Nolan masterpiece. It also received Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography.