Christopher Nolan's dark head-trip of a movie, adapted from Christopher Priest’s 1995 novel, revolves around two turn-of-the-century magicians trapped in a lifelong game of increasingly dangerous one-upmanship. Harry Cutter (Michael Caine) is an ingeneur
— he devises and constructs the apparatuses behind elaborate stage illusions with which professional prestidigitators wow audiences wise to card tricks and simple sleights of hand. Every trick, he says, has three parts: The "pledge," an ordinary object or action; the "turn" that startles (and misdirects) the audience; and the "prestige," the final, unpredictable reveal that leaves them gasping. Cutter once men...