I do not understand why this movie is so highly rated.
Like Christian Bale, it doesn’t know what to do with itself; like Bale, it takes a concept (i.e. “magician with no stage presence” or “movie about magic and misdirection) and takes it too far. There’s no balance, only ego.
One of the biggest flaws in the film is pacing. The pledge dominates the narrative in an overly-brooding and sloppy story, with a glaring flaw: the doting and protective husband should have been the one to tie his wife’s most important, life-sustaining wrist knots. There’s no logical reason why he doesn’t, or why he wouldn’t blame himself. He’s certainly self-consumed enough to think his role is important.
The turn pits real (stage) magic against (ridiculous) fake science. This is supposed to show that Bale is a better magician than Jackman, and that the latter doesn’t really have the moral high ground, it is so unsatisfying. Secret twin? Great. This fits with the character’s entire arc and nearly explains so much of what was confusing, in a way that we want to believe a magician obsessed with his craft might. Accidentally inventing a cloning device, giving it wholly to a stage magician who uses it to out-perform and frame a rival?
This should be been a Houdini: a bitter magician exposing tricks to satisfy a need for revenge (and maybe regretting ruining the magic after exposing the twin). Instead it was lazy, broadcasting heavily throughout (“today you mean it,” and “they’re all your hat") and offering only a banal prestige.
Like the primary characters, it’s a film that thinks too much of itself.