This film, like every other Christopher Nolan film I have seen, is one that you need to watch twice.
There are a laundry list of reasons why I love this film, so I'll just break it down.
There are three actors that I adore and who's career I've been following for years. One of them is Christian Bale. I first fell in love with Bale when I swooned over him in Newsies back in the early 90's. Since then he has proven his talent over and over with a myriad of amazing performances. The films themselves may not have always been the best (even though I love them anyway), but his performances are almost always the best part. He, like no other actor I know of, is a master of dialect. And if anyone has ever attempted to study a dialect for a character, you know that it is crazy difficult, even if you are a natural. But it's not just his dialect that blows my mind with every performance, it's how he so perfectly slips into each character as if he was born to play it. It was only until recently that he finally was recognized by the academy for his incredible talent, which was for his stellar, scene stealing performance in The Fighter. I personally feel that though he wholeheartedly deserved that award, it should not have been his first Oscar... but then again, awards aren't why actors do what they do... at least I hope not... and in the long run, it's your career choices that define your work. The three actors whose work I admire the most have chosen roles that define their work as that of someone who has proven time and time again that they were born to act.
Christian Bale is subtly stunning in this film.
Hugh Jackman has got some range. He acts, he sings, he dances, he fights. What I love about this performance is his portrayal of the degradation of obsession. He plays it in such a way that it makes you want to just yell at his character to give it up and just let go. Anytime an actor can get an emotional reaction out of me like that has done a pretty convincing job.
David Bowie. Oh, how I LOVE that Bowie is in this. He was the first and only choice for Christopher Nolan as Tesla and I can see why. Although Bowie resisted this role for a long time, Nolan finally wore him down and convinced him that no other could portray the man who changed the Industrial world as we know it. Thank God he said yes. He impressed me.
Michael Caine is just awesome. He has such a tender quality about him and can play the voice of reason in any film with such sincerity. I just love him in this role.
Christopher Nolan is one of my favorites. If you've seen his films, you should know why (Inception, Momento... hello!). He's so perfect at making a film that gets you really thinking and gets you really excited and needing more. Like I said before, he makes the kind of films that, immediately after you've finished them, you need to watch it again from a different perspective. That's good filmmaking right there.
The Costumes/Set Design/Era:
I love the industrial revolution/victorian era. Since I was a little girl I've been fascinated by it. My mom had photos of Gibson Girls sprinkled around the house and she even used a Victorian era boot as a planter for dried flowers and I was always transfixed by it. The costumes, props, set design all give me a real comfortable, homey feel. I just can't get enough of it. The high neck collars, the men's hats and suits, the performance costumes, the beards and mustaches! It's all just so beautiful.
What I find so perfect and so intriguing is how this film itself is like a magic trick. Not only is it about magicians themselves, but it's as if Nolan (and the author of the book) is the ultimate magician. As you watch the film you're watching the magic trick unfold before your eyes and when you get to the end, if you're not watching closely, you could miss a part of it. That's why you have to see it again. You know how it unfolds in the end, but you need to revisit how it happened.
I really get excited when a scene is filmed as theatrically as possible. Multiple cameras were used in order to make sure that scenes had as few stops as possible. This kind of filmmaking seems to be the closest to live theatre as possible in that the camera just keeps rolling for multiple pages of the script. That means that getting each line, mark, blocking, everything right is so important because the cameras just keep going. I LOVE IT. It makes rehearsal important. I'm the kind of actor that loves rehearsal because that's when the discoveries happen, and that's when it becomes second nature, so I love to see that on film.
Oh, and it's super suspenseful. Just watch it, you'll thank me.