Prestige Do we need to explain “second base”?

Thom Yorke's "Analyse" accompanies the end credits of Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, which pretty much makes perfect sense. Yorke's song is creepy, weird, and great—abstract and affecting, its jarring unease plays alongside a romantic sort of cynicism. It's a killer song, and its unexpected inclusion makes The Prestige a better movie than it'd otherwise be. That's not to discredit The Prestige, which is a solid enough film; it's just too bad that The Prestige doesn't come into focus until its final reel.

Christopher Nolan is most famous for 2000's Memento, though his next two films—Insomnia and Batman Begins—were both damn near excellent. The Prestige veers into different territory from his previous work, even if it's familiar to the rest of us: A period piece about dueling magicians, it shares subject matter with the recent/mediocre The Illusionist, the inescapable Harry Potter, and Susanna Clarke's 2004 novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Thankfully, The Prestige has an identity of its own: Christian Bale plays Alfred Borden, who, along with Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) aims to become the top illusionist in Victorian London. When Angier's wife dies in a fumbled illusion, the stakes intensify; driven with hatred and envy, Borden and Angier go to the ends of the earth (read: Colorado) to outdo the other. Along the way, counsel is proffered by Michael Caine, sexiness is thrown about by Scarlett Johansson, and David Bowie shows up as Nikola Tesla. (And yes, the Bowie/Tesla part is as awesome as it sounds.)

The Prestige gets clunky at times, and it's overlong, and the lightweight Jackman is no match for Bale. But Nolan knows what he's doing, and by the final act, the film's immensely entertaining narrative tumbles into place. Watching The Prestige, I wasn't overly impressed; by the time it had finished, I couldn't wait to see it again. Well, that, and I kept singing "Analyse," whose lingering tone paired perfectly with Nolan's images of creaky Victorian illusions. There are worse sounds and sights to have bumping around in your head.