The Prestige is one of those movies with a big final act twist, a plot device about which I have extremely mixed feelings. I love a challenging, surprising story as much as anyone, but I hate when the twist becomes the whole point. If the only question worth pondering in a story is What’s the twist?, that’s not a story worth telling.
The Prestige, however, raises many questions beyond the What?, which is why it doesn’t matter that any observant moviegoer can puzzle out the movie’s secrets before the official revelation. After all, director Christopher Nolan, who cowrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan, plays fair, lacing the film with clues, both traditional and figurative, hinting metaphorically at the revelations to come. The Nolan brothers don’t need to make a fetish of the twist, concealing it with falsehoods and pointless distractions, because What? is not nearly so interesting a question as Why? and What next?, even What are the moral implications of the twist? and What might the twist symbolize?. The Nolan brothers know what notorious twist-abuser M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t: A great twist isn’t a gimmick; it’s the heart of the story.