The Prestige – explained

Ever since I posted my review of The Prestige way back when, people have been ending up on our site after searching for keywords such as “The Prestige movie explained”, “Prestige explanation”, “The Prestige movie”, “What happened in the end of the Prestige?” and “what happened at the end of the Prestige.” I’ll agree, the movie was a bit overwhelming the first time we (Christine and I) saw it in the theater, and we left asking each other a ton of questions, almost to the point where we turned around and went back in for a second showing. However, the second time we watched the movie, most of the confusing parts made perfect sense.

Since there seems to be so much confusion over what happened, I’ve watched the movie two more times (my fifth and sixth viewings), and made notes of various “clues” throughout the movie, and hopefully explain what happens in the end. So, if you’re curious or confused, read on:

We know that The Prestige is told out of order, which in itself can be partly to blame for the confusion. Christopher Nolan (the director) likes making jumbled up movies. If you’ve never seen Memento, you should check it out, especially if you liked The Prestige. So, since the movie itself is told out of order, I’ll straighten it out, which may help a bit.

The very beginning of the movie is “today”, so to speak, the murder trial part. This is what’s considered “now.” However, the majority of the movie is told through a flashback. Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) is in jail up until about an hour and fifty minutes into the movie. Borden’s in jail for murdering Angier (Hugh Jackman), in a magic trick gone wrong. All of the flashbacks are shown as Borden reads through Angier’s diary entries, which were provided to him by the assistant of Lord Caldlow.

Within the flashback (Borden reading Angier’s journal), Angier reads Borden’s journal. I think this is the part that confuses everyone. So let’s untwist the entire movie. I’ll explain in details how we come to the conclusion(s), after the explanation.

This is a summation of the events of the movie, in the order in which they happen on-screen, not necessarily the order in which they actually happened for the characters.

  • NOW – Voice-over explanation of how magic tricks work. (Michael Caine’s voice-over)
    Borden watches Angier drown.
    Borden’s on trial for murdering Angier.
    Borden goes to jail.
    Borden is approached by Caldlow’s assistant (Owens), looking to buy his tricks, specifically the “Transported Man” secret.
    As a show of good faith, Owens gives Borden Angier’s journal.
    Borden reads Angier’s journal while imprisioned for murdering him, awaiting his death.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Angier’s reading Borden’s diary, while in Colorado. Angier is in Colorado trying to figure out how Borden did his trick “The Transported Man.”
    Angier tries to see Nikola Tesla, to create him a machine to do the “Transported Man” trick.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – We go back to the first time Angier and Borden worked together as “plants” (people stuck in the crowd, but are really part of the show). The woman they tie up, who does the trick, is Angier’s wife Julia. Borden sets up his “masterpiece” by saying, “No one can do my trick.”
    Cutter sends Angier and Borden to see the Asian magician, to see who can figure out how he does the “fishbowl” trick. Borden figures out the trick, that the Asian magician isn’t really old and fragile, that it’s part of his act, so that he can bring the fishbowl out on stage, between his legs.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Borden is performing as an assistant to Cutter’s friend. He meets Sarah, and her nephew. When Borden shows the canary to the crying boy, the boy asks, “But where’s his brother?” (Possible foreshadowing to the end of the movie)
    Outside, Borden tells the little boy, “Never show anyone, they’ll beg you and they’ll flatter you for the secret.” (Another possible foreshadowing event to the end of the movie.)
    Sarah goes inside her apartment, and locks the door. Borden appears inside her apartment.
  • NOW – Cutter shows the judge Angier’s machine. Cutter asks if he can prevent Caldlow from getting the device. He explains it’s too dangerous, and that there is no trick, that the device is “real.”
    Cutter shows the judge the tank that Angier drowned in, and that the trick lock was replaced with a real lock.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – They perform the “woman escaping” trick again. Borden ties a different knot. Julia’s unable to escape, and drowns. (I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t anyone give her CPR? I wondered the same thing, and thought that maybe CPR wasn’t around in the late 1800s, but according to Wikipedia, it was.)
    At the funeral, Angier asks Borden which knot he tied, he says “I keep asking myself that.”, “I’m sorry, I just don’t know.” Borden leaves, Angier yells at him “You don’t know?!”
    Sarah meets Mr. Fallon, who speaks his some of his very few lines of the entire film. (I had not noticed this until just now, and am watching the movie so I can be sure these notes are accurate.) When he speaks, his mouth barely moves, and you don’t notice him speaking. He sounds so much like Borden, you assume it was he who spoke.
    Sarah tells Borden she’s pregnant, his first words are, “That’s great. We shoulda told Fallon.” Foreshadowing? I think so.
    He says he loves her, she replies with, “Not today, you don’t.”
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Borden is performing his tricks in some little dive theater, being booed. He performs the bullet-catch, and a disguised Angier slips a bullet into the gun, and shoots off two of Borden’s fingers.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Angier reads that Borden wrote “I told him the truth, that I have fought with myself over that night. One half of me swearing blind that I tied a simple slipknot, the other half convinced that I tied the langford double. I could never know for sure.”
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Borden’s fingers are bleeding, again. The baby is crying, so we know this is months and months later.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Cutter invites Angier for a drink, tells him he wants to book Angier to perform. He settles on the name “The Great Danton”, and begins working on tricks. They hire Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) to be Angier’s assistant.
    The Great Danton performs his tricks, Borden shows up, and repays him for shooting off his fingers by sabotaging Angier’s trick. The theater owner throws them out after a spectator gets hurt on stage.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Tesla’s assistant meets with Angier, and tells him Telsa can see him. Angier tells the assistant that he wants the same machine that Tesla built for “another magician.” Tesla’s assistant shows Angier the work that Tesla’s working on.
  • NOW – Borden’s daughter visits him in jail. Fallon tells Borden that they’re taking his daughter away to the “workhouse.” Borden says it’s okay to sell the secret to Caldlow, so that his daughter can be safe.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Angier meets Tesla (played by a wonderful David Bowie), who agrees to build the machine that Angier wants.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Angier is putting on a disguise, to see Borden perform. We see Borden perform the “Transported Man” for the first time, and it stuns Angier to the point of obsession.
    Cutter says “He uses a double;” “It’s too simple,” Angier says. Olivia agrees that he’s not using a double.
    Angier and Cutter start setting up their version, and find a double for Angier.
    Borden buys Sarah a house. She says “I asked you about this last week, you said…”; Borden replies, “You caught me in a wrong mood.”
    Angier performs his trick “The New Transported Man” with his double. They celebrate.
    Angier tells Olivia to go work for Borden, to get his secrets.
    Olivia goes to tell Borden she wants to work for him, and that she’s going to doublecross Angier, because he sent her away.
    We learn that Borden was the one who told the double that he could demand more, which is why he begins sabotaging the “New Transported Man” trick. He tells the double “I used a double.”
    Angier shows up at Olivia’s. She tells him about the disguises at Borden’s, and that Cutter was right, that he “uses a double.” She gives Angier Borden’s notebook.
    Angier follows Borden, Fallon follows Angier. Cutter and Angier trap Fallon in a coffin, and bury him alive. They threaten to let him die if Borden doesn’t give them the secret to the Transported Man trick.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Angier visits Tesla’s workshop for a demonstration. Tesla attempts to use Angier’s hat for the demonstration, but nothing happens – the machine doesn’t work. Angier is rushed out of the workshop.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – We find out Olivia doublecrossed the doublecross.
    We find out Borden loves Olivia. He says “To open myself to such a relationship, to the dangers of such an affair, I need assurances of fidelity, of love. I had to be sure. I know a way, it’s the only way to know her mind.”
    Angier finds out the journal that he’s been reading was written by Borden specifically to be read by Angier.
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Tesla’s machine does work, and they clone a cat, which Angier finds outside, along with dozens of his top hats, which were the results of the previous tests that they thought weren’t working.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Sarah’s drinking problem continues, getting worse.
    Borden asks Fallon to take the daughter to the zoo, he says that “Sarah, she knows.”
  • FLASHBACK (Colorado) – Telsa’s workshop has been burnt down, presumably by Thomas Edison’s men, who were his competitors.
    Tesla left the working machine for Angier, who brings it back to England and begins practicing with it.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Angier works with the machine, and clones himself.
  • NOW – Borden reads in Angier’s journal, “Yes you, Borden. Sitting in your cell, reading my diary, awaiting your death, for my murder.” Angier’s journal was intended for the other to read, just as Borden’s was.
    Caldlow’s assistant explains that the journal wasn’t fake – it truly is written in Angier’s own hand. Borden hands over his tricks, without the prestiges. Says he wants to see his daughter one last time, before he hands over the prestiges.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Borden and Sarah are fighting. Sarah says “I know what you really are, Alfred.” Fallon takes the daughter away, so she doesn’t hear the fighting. We assume they’re fighting over Olivia.
    Sarah hangs herself at Borden’s workshop.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Angier meets with Cutter, and tells him he wants to do another show, 100 performances.
    Sarah said she wanted to meet Olivia before she hung herself; Olivia wonders what she would have said.
    Borden says “Part of me loved her, part of me didn’t,” in regards to Sarah.
    Olivia leaves Borden, because of how cold he is about Sarah’s death.
    Angier performs his “Real Transported Man,” Borden knows he falls through the stage to dissappear, but not how he transports across the theater.
    Borden yells at Fallon, and asks “Why can’t you outthink him?”
    Angier’s stagehands remove the tank, while Fallon watches.
    Borden says, “Let him have his trick, I don’t need his secret. So, don’t go back there, leave it alone, both of us. Just leave it alone. We’re done.” to Fallon.
    Bordon examines the machine, and goes downstairs and watches Angier drown. He tries to break the glass, to save him.
    Cutter identifies Angier’s body, who’s now dead.
  • FLASHBACK (England) – Cutter asks if he can buy the Transported Man machine. Caldlow’s assistant says that he can ask Caldlow for the machine.
  • NOW – Caldlow shows up to visit Borden, with Borden’s daughter Jess. Borden says, “I’ve missed you so much, Fallon has too.”
    Caldlow is really Angier, or rather Angier is really Caldlow.
    Borden is confused, because Angier is supposed to be dead, which is why he’s in jail.
    Borden offers to give Angier the secret to the “Transported Man.” Angier rips it up, and throws it away. Angier says “Whatever your secret was, you have to agree, mine was better.”
    Borden promises to bring Jess home soon.
  • NOW (Somewhere in America) – Cutter shows up at Caldlow’s house, and sees that it’s Angier.
    Cutter feels guilty for helping get Borden hung.
    Caldlow says he’ll ensure the machine will be destroyed.
  • NOW – Borden is talking with Fallon in jail, and says, “You’ll go alone now.”
    Borden says “You were right, I should have left him to his damn trick. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for a lot of things. I’m sorry for Sarah. I didn’t mean to hurt her. I didn’t. You go live your life in full now, go live for both of us.” (Another clue from earlier, when Borden told Fallon to “leave him and his trick alone.”)
    Fallon says, “Goodbye”, his second line in the movie at 1:54
  • NOW – They bring Borden to be hung.
    Cutter helps Angier lower the machine into the basement, where his other props are.
    Borden’s last word is, “Abracadabra.”
    Fallon enters Angier’s theater, as Cutter leaves.
    Ball bounces to Angier, Borden shoots him.
    Borden emerges from the shadows, minus two fingers, and removes Fallon’s hat.
    Angier figures it all out. “A brother, a twin” he says.
    “You were Fallon, the whole time.” Borden replies, “No, we were both Fallon, and we were both Borden.”
    Borden explains (with help from flashbacks) how they cut off two fingers of the twin after the bullet catch incident, and how it was “bleeding again.”
    He also explains the situation with Sarah and Olivia – “We each loved one of them. I loved Sarah. He loved Olivia. We each had half of a full life. Which was enough for us.”
    Angier explains his trick. The machine would clone him each time, and he would then kill himself, and live on as the clone. Or, in some instances, he would kill the clone. “It took courage to climb into that machine every night, not knowing, if I’d be the man in the box, or the prestige.”
    Angier’s dropped latern sets the theater on fire. The theater burns down.
  • NOW – Voice-over, Cutter explains the magic trick again.
    Borden shows up, and picks up Jess (the daughter) from Cutter.
    As Borden leaves the theater, we see the water tanks with the Angier clones in them, drowned. We assume that each night he performed the trick, he killed another of himself/a clone, and kept their bodies hidden.

The movie ends.

Explanation of the higher-level points:Angier’s story: Angier was really Lord Caldlow the entire time, from the beginning of the movie, to the end. He pretended to be Angier so he could perform magic, without anyone knowing who he really was.

His wife was killed in an accident, so he took out for revenge against the man he felt was responsible for it, Borden.

Angier’s trick was performed with Tesla’s machine, which cloned him. The clone would generally take over for Angier, and Angier would be killed each night, as part of the trick.

Borden’s story: Borden had a twin brother. Each of them took turns being Borden, and being Fallon (the assistant). We don’t know which one was really which one, and if their names were really Alfred and/or Fallon.

One of them loved Sarah, the other loved Olivia.

Their trick was performed using a double, exactly how Cutter said it was performed.

One of them was hung in jail, the other confronted Caldlow/Angier, and shot him, leaving him for dead. He then picked up his daughter Jess, and went on with his life.


Clues? There’s a ton of them throughout the movie. And if you want to see them all, watch the movie a second time. Every time I watch it, I find new things that I’d missed before. Here’s a list of all the clues I’ve found, and the times they occur. (The time stamp is according to the Region 1 encoded DVD, and is in minutes:seconds format)

00:45 – We see Angier’s multiple top-hats, indicating that Tesla’s machine works.
02:04 – Angier uses blind stage hands, so they won’t see the dead clones.
02:47 – Angier/clone falls into the water, and drowns.
05:22 – Fallon is seen with Jess (the daughter) in the courtroom.
14:13 – “No one can do my trick,” Borden says, indicating that he’s put his entire life into the trick.
16:41 – “This is the trick” Borden says about the Asian magician. He can pick it out so quickly, because he’s doing the same thing.
19:23 – “But where’s his brother?” Sarah’s nephew asks Borden, foreshadowing that Borden has a brother.
20:20 – “Never show anyone, they’ll beg you and they’ll flatter you for the secret,” he says to the nephew, outside the theater.
21:09 – Sarah locks the door, with Borden outside. The twin brother’s already inside.
27:14 – “I’m sorry, I don’t know” – when Angier asks Borden which knot he tied. He doesn’t know, because the brother tied the knot.
28:00 – When Sarah says she’s pregnant, Borden’s first response is, “That’s great, we should have told Fallon.” Borden reacts this way because Fallon was actually the father.
30:07 – When Borden says he loves Sarah, she responds, “Not today, you don’t.” Sarah knows that the Borden in front of her doesn’t really love her. The other one does.
33:03 – “I told him the truth, that I have fought with myself over that night. One half of me swearing blind that I tied a simple slipknot, the other half convinced that I tied the langford double. I could never know for sure.” – Borden himself isn’t sure which knot he tied. The two Bordens fight over it.
33:26 – Sarah says, “I don’t understand how it can be bleeding again,” in regards to Borden’s two severed fingers. They’re bleeding “again” because they had just been cut off of the other twin.
42:10 – Tesla’s assistant says “Two of ’em,” in a completely unrelated conversation. But still, it’s a hidden clue.
46:44 – “I love you,” Borden says to Sarah, who replies, “Today it’s true.” This is the Borden who does love her.
48:05 – Fallon always wears gloves, to hide the fact that he’s missing the same two fingers as Borden.
51:30 – Tesla asks Angier, “Have you considered the cost?” in regards to the cloning machine. Losing one’s life every night is not an easy task.
54:55 – Cutter says “He uses a double.” It’s his simple explanation of the Transported Man trick.
56:20 – When Borden buys the house for Sarah, she says, “But we talked about this last week.” Borden says, “You caught me in a wrong mood.” She had talked about it with the other Borden.
1:04:30 – Fallon leaves when Olivia enters, so she can’t see who he really is. She would be able to tell.
1:07:58 – Borden admits to Root (Angier’s double) that, “I used a double.”
1:10:49 – “Cutter was right, he uses a double.” Olivia says to Angier, explaining about the “extra wigs” not used in the show.
1:11:10 – Olivia says, “He lives his act, don’t you see?”
1:16:52 – “How does he do it?” Angier asks Cutter, who replies, “The same way he always has.” Cutter insists Borden uses a double.
1:19:07 – “I had a terrible ordeal today,” Borden says to Sarah, as to why he’s drinking. Of course he did, he was buried alive as Fallon.
1:19:30 – “Secrets are my life,” Borden says to Sarah, “Stop performing.” she yells at him.
1:21:50 – When Fallon is taking Olivia home, he stares at her through the glass of the carriage. This is the Borden who loves Olivia.
1:22:00 – “To open myself to such a relationship, to the dangers of such an affair, I need assurances of fidelity, of love. I had to be sure. I know a way, it’s the only way to know her mind.” – Borden isn’t talking about cheating on his wife, really. He’s talking about how one Borden can be in love with Olivia, without Olivia giving away the secrets.
1:25:30 – We see Angier’s top hat duplicated, along with the handful of black cats.
1:26:38 – “I promised, did I?” Borden says to his daughter Jess, in regards to going to the zoo. The other Borden had promised to take her.
1:27:22 – “It’s so much harder when you don’t” Sarah says, in regards to the days that he loves her.
1:27:44 – “Jess wants to go to the zoo, I thought maybe you could take her,” Borden says to Fallon.
1:27:56 – “She knows,” Borden tells Fallon about Sarah.
1:28:38 – “I saw Fallon hanging around today,” Olivia tells Borden. Fallon (that day) was the one who loved her.
1:32:44 – “Olivia means nothing to me,” Borden tells Sarah. This is true; the other Borden is the one who loves Olivia.
1:33:05 – Sarah says she’s going to tell everyone what “You really are.” Borden says, “Sarah, shut up! You can’t talk like this.”
1:33:20 – Fallon carries Jess off.
1:34:07 – “Do you love me?” Sarah asks Borden. “Not today, no” he replies. The other Borden is the one who loves her.
1:38:49 – “I never loved Sarah,” Borden says to Olivia “part of me loved her, but part of me loves you.” The two separate “parts” are two separate people.
1:43:40 – “Why can’t you outthink him?” Borden says to Fallon. Fallon has no gloves on in this scene, the only time in the movie he’s gloveless, however he left hand is hidden under the table.
1:44:53 – “Both of us, leave him alone,” Borden says to Fallon.
1:49:22 – “Fallon’s missed you too, we both have.” Borden says to Jess, while in jail.
1:54:03 – “You were right, I should have left him alone. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for a lot of things. I’m sorry about Sarah” – Borden says to Fallon from jail. At this point, Fallon was the Borden who loved Sarah. The “I should have left him alone” is a big clue, which goes back to 9 minutes earlier, when Borden tells Fallon to leave him alone. At this point, they’re switched. The Borden who said “leave him alone” is now Fallon.
1:54:11 – Borden tosses the red bouncing ball to Fallon, just like he did in the act.
1:57:30 – Fallon enters Angier’s theater.
1:58:08 – The red ball bounces to Angier.
1:58:30 – Fallon comes out of the shadows as Borden.
1:58:43 – Angier figures it out, saying, “A brother. A twin. You were Fallon the whole time.” Borden replies, “No, we were both Fallon, we were both Borden.”
1:59:54 – “We each loved one of them”, Borden explains how they loved Sarah, and Olivia
2:01:59 – Angier shoots the first clone in a flashback, and explains how he cloned himself for the trick to Borden.

This movie is fantastic, and I highly recommend you check it out, if you haven’t already. If there’s anything I missed, or something that doesn’t make sense, please leave a comment, and I’ll do what I can to address it for you. I hope this helps clarify some of the questions you’ve had about The Prestige, I know it was a lot of fun to write, and it’s always great to get to watch the movie over and over again.


Older Comments
  1. mike2 on said:

    My take on the film:

    The common understanding of the movie, that Borden sent Angier to Tesla as a form of misdirection and then Tesla somehow coincidentally perfects said cloning device, is completely ridiculous.

    There are 2 options left to understand the film:

    1. That the machine does work and Borden knew about it, which makes it much more probable that his twin is in fact a clone.

    2. The machine was misdirection which Angier turns back on Borden by deceiving Borden to believe it actually works. ( hard to believe Borden would fall for his own trick. ) More likely Borden knew Angier simply had a double, the bodies in the water tanks were props etc…and he got his revenge.

    I find interpretation 1 to be more compelling. Also understand that these are not just clones but are exact replicas in memory and awareness , so even with Angier’s fear of the trick he had the capacity to carry it out because regardless “he” was still surviving.

    There is is also the possible alternate ending contained in the movie mentioned above:

    Angier knew Borden’s twin or the original Borden would be looking for revenge. (This ending works for both interpretations,but as stated once we agree the machine works for Angier we should assume it was used by Borden).

    According to the interpretation that the machine works, The ending could have been orchestrated by Angier and a created clone, as his final illusion. It’s purpose would be to deceive Borden into thinking he had killed him (with Cutter’s either in on the trick or not) in order to allow them both to move on. (Angier had got revenge on the “clone/otherself” (twin) of Borden who incorrectly tied the rope of his wife, and Borden had got revenge on Angier framing his “clone/otherself” (twin).


  2. mike2 on said:

    The common understanding of the movie, that Borden sent Angier to Tesla as a form of misdirection and then Tesla somehow coincidentally perfects said cloning device, is completely ridiculous.

    There are 2 options left to understand the film:

    1. That the machine does work and Borden knew about it, which makes it much more probable that his twin is in fact a clone.

    2. The machine was misdirection planted in Borden’s diary, which Angier turns back on Borden by deceiving him through his own diary to believe it actually works. ( hard to believe Borden would fall for this. ) Likely Borden knew Angier simply had a double, the bodies in the water tanks were props etc…and he got his revenge.

    Either way, Angier knew Borden had either a twin or a clone which would be looking for revenge, so I am also open to the possibility that the ending could have been orchestrated by Angier and a surviving clone, as others mentioned.


  3. default on said:

    Im not sure what this means, but When hugh Jackman was showing his new trick to the investor or whatever, that guy specifically said oh I haven’t seen real magic in a long time…also there was no trap door it only was shown after that investor was all like make sure people can doubt it…


  4. Daisy on said:

    The whole movie is about sacrefice and whom is better?!?!?! It would be so cool if Angier had another double and if the story continued… :) I’m hungry for more I want a second part!!! LOVED IT


  5. John on said:

    Any idea why Angier was so specific about 100 shows-” no more, no less”? It must have been important somewhere in the story. Borden brought it up specifically when he & Fallon were trying to determine Angier’s methods. Maybe some content/sub-plot was deleted from the final movie and the explanation was cut? I have never heard this addressed. Anyone have speculation on this point? Was this important or just dialog?


    • Mike on said:

      It’s not called out in the movie or in the script. But I imagine it was just to entice Borden to want to show up.

      There would have likely been some dialog between Borden and Fallon to the effect of “Why 100 shows? Why?!”, “I don’t know twin brother who people on MovieSnobs think is a clone. But one of us should go to every single one of them!”

      The reality is that it’s not talked about, but my guess is so that it’d catch Borden’s attention. (And, were it real, it’d be a good marketing gimmick, too. “Come see the show, limited engagement!”)


      • deb on said:

        It’s only 100 shows because Angier can only suffer the agony of drowning (and the tremendous expense and inconvenience of disposing of so many dead clones) so many times before things get totally out of hand.


  6. IK on said:

    Please note that: The ‘Angier’ in the water tank, when found by Borden, is desperately asking for help!! Additionally, Cutter (when showing the objects between 20-25mins) says “this trick lock has been switched with a real one”.


  7. eternal_fizzer on said:

    has anyone considered that Fallon is a clone of Borden from his relationship with Tesla? What if Tesla used the machine/an earlier machine on Borden and the clone met the original (without killing himself) and they decided to use the result for their masterpiece act?


    • Jose R. Felix on said:

      Is not , because …if he was he would of know exactly what Angier was doing since he did it himself. They show Borden arguing with his twin “Fallon” wondering how Angier was doing the trick after seeing it for the first time. I do have a different theory to the ending though.


      • Mike on said:

        Jose is right. Fallon and Bordon are twins, not clones.

        Tesla never built anything for Fallon, that was all a ruse. Borden sent Angier on a wild goose chase with his journal. It just so happened that Tesla delivered and made the machine for Angier.


    • John on said:

      I don’t think this to be the case because when Angier arrives at Tesla’s lab and is angry because the machine isn’t working(or so they thought) . He is also mad at Alley(Tesla’s assistant) accusing him of “leading him to believe Tesla had built this same machine for a colleague in the past. The only connection Borden had/was shown to have with Mr. Tesla is when he (as well as Angier) also attended the science exhibit of A/C power in London.


  8. Steve on said:

    I really doubt that there was another double except from the one who screwd Angier on the stage. I do believe that tesla’s maschine works cause its pretty obvious in the scene with the first clone.. The only thing I cant understand is why in that scene the original stays in the maschine and the clone appears elsewere.. Isnt it supposed to be the opposite? Is this a plot mistake, or else the real Angier would die in that scene which makes no scense at all!


  9. Tom on said:

    Short version: Check the scene where Borden buys Sarah the house (55:55). He still has his fingers. Huge clue no one else picked up on. Magic exists in this, and Angier didn’t have a twin double the whole time, it’s silly to deny this.

    Long version:
    Check the scene where Borden buys Sarah the house (55:55), pausing as often as possible before he crouches (he says “look, look”). BORDEN STILL HAS HIS FINGERS ON HIS LEFT HAND, but he curls them in outside of Sarah’s vision. This could be unintended, but I think Nolan deviously left this obvious-if-seen clue in place on purpose. Nolan left this clue in to imply that one “Borden” hadn’t cut his fingers off to be identical yet. It’s a hard-to-detect but enormously substantial clue that this “Borden” did not take the bullet.

    Okay so the machine that Tesla built IS magic. Angier does NOT have a twin, or double. If he did why would he be using the drunk? Also, there is evidence of three Angier deaths. First, the one who drowns at the beginning of the movie. Second, the clone when Angier first tests the machine, which he immediately shoots. Either of these COULD be in the tank at the end but it isn’t feasible. The first is “buried” we can say, as he had a funeral and they would have disposed of his body in some fashion. It is unlikely that the one Angier shoots would end up in a water tank, but I’ll admit possibility. Finally, the one Borden shoots is the third Angier. Not to mention all the other clones that are assumed to be in the tanks around Angier. Also, Cutter sees all the tanks around him, and he knows Borden is going to kill Angier at the end, as he passes him by and is awaiting him with Borden’s daughter at the end (when he does his intro speech). Cutter scolds Angier, admitting that drowning isn’t like “going home”, but “agony”, to shame Angier for killing so many duplicates of himself. Seriously there is no hidden non-magical explanation. We assume Tesla can build such things because Tesla is basically a “wizard” in science (in real life he was pretty significant and his alternating current could do some miraculous things, of course not cloning).


    • Joe on said:

      I teach this film in a high school film class, the Borden twins do not cut their fingers off to match again, until Olivia convinces Borden to not hide his disability, because it will make his magic much more impressive. They both always wear gloves to hide the fact that one is mutilated and the other is not.

      Also, kudos to Christian Bale for a nuanced acting job. On repeated viewings, you can tell which Borden twin is which. The one who loves Sarah, seems to me to be more soft-spoken, calmer, less emotional and speaks with a more neutral accent. The twin that loves Olivia, is more emotional, quicker to anger, more outspoken, and to me, seems to speak with a broader, lower class accent.


  10. dev on said:

    Who tied the wrong knot to Angier’s wife one who loved Sarah or the one who loved Olivia ??


  11. Tobias Shen on said:

    Here’s to clear up two common questions on these comments

    1. Is the machine real?
    2. If the machine was real, was Angier or the clone killed each time?

    The answer to these questions hinges on Angier’s explaination that he did not know if he was going to be the man in the box or the prestige.

    1. Is the machine real?

    Yes, absolutely, or the above statement would make no sense. The people who say it’s all an illusion don’t address this, nor the fact that he explicitly sees himself cloned and shoots himself.

    2. Was Angier or his clone killed?

    It doesn’t matter. There is no real way to define “clone”. Because the machine creates duplications, Angier wouldhave existed in 2 places at the same time. 2 bodies, identical in every way, but more importantly, 2 identical consciousnesses.

    So in other words, to the Angier who spawned it would have appeared he had transported. To the one who fell through the door, well, clearly it would appear that he was not the prestige. But zooming out, for that moment after the machine works, Angier becomes 2 identical entities within time and space. Identical for a mere moment.. for one is soon drowning and the other quite pleased.


    • Mae on said:

      “1. Is the machine real?
      Yes, absolutely, or the above statement would make no sense. The people who say it’s all an illusion don’t address this, nor the fact that he explicitly sees himself cloned and shoots himself.”

      There is a very simple explanation for this.

      Most of the movie, we are shown scenes because either Borden or Angier is reading from the other’s diary.

      The scene where Angier allegedly, successfully cloned himself and shot his clone, was a scene that happened when Borden was reading Angier’s diary.

      Let me repeat: when BORDEN was reading ANGIER’S DIARY. The diary Angier planted and meant for Borden to read.

      The theory is that the machine Tesla made was just a machine that made loud noises and sparkly lightning. After all, it was Borden who led Angier to Tesla on a wild goose chase. Once Angier figured it out, Tesla was long gone of course. So Angier decided to troll Borden – he wanted to lead Borden to believe that Tesla REALLY did what Borden assumed was impossible and made a cloning machine. He’s the better magician now, he doesn’t need a double!

      Going back to the diary, which was planted by Angier for Borden to read… see where I’m coming from?

      I thought this theory was bull when I first heard it, but I’ve gone over both theories in my head and I realize Nolan left enough ambiguity in every scene, enough for the possibility of either theory.


      • Luke on said:

        This is simply not possible because of the simple fact that in the end scence, which is the present and is not an imaginary depiction of someone’s diary, you can clearly see Angier’s clones lined up in tanks of water. The theory also makes no sense in terms of Angier’s dialogues with Cutter.


  12. Hexson on said:

    Two theries have been proposed here – either the machine works and cloning happens and clone is constantly killed or machine is bs and we “aren’t watching closely or paying attention” amd Angiers-Lord has a double- but if machine didn’t work how could we explain all the blind clones ( the old men)that Angiers/lord cloned to help with act and move cloning machine around


  13. chreatur on said:

    I think there may be a sub=plot that went unnoticed:
    In the scene where Angier first clones himself, The cloned Angier is the one that shoots the original Angier. You will notice the Angier that appears away from the machine screams “! Wait I’m the…” and then gets shot. I believe he was about to say “I’m the real one”. But the clone has realized that the gun is near him and therefore shoots the original. So from this point on, the cloned Angier is who we are watching. In essence the cloned Angier has double-crossed the original Angier to save himself. Technically, the transporter machine does work, it does transport the original object but unfortunately creates a duplicate in the same place as the original (in the machine). So for Angier’s 100 transporter magic act, the cloned Angier has figured out that he gets transported while his duplicate is placed in the machine. He then sets up the trap to drown his duplicate in every act. What do you think?


    • The Great Danton on said:



    • nick a on said:

      Well, the clone would believe he was the real Angier anyways. That’s the beauty of cloning. But either way, it doesn’t matter because when he does the act on stage, it’s the one that stays in the machine that is killed. And Angier said in the movie “It took courage to climb into that machine every night, not knowing, if I’d be the man in the box, or the prestige” so maybe it switched each time between which was the clone and which was the original. In which case, the original Angier has surely died by the end of the movie.


    • Jaime on said:

      That makes sense since they show cloning the cat the new clone cats look more aggressive and the new 1st clone Angier kills the original and the rest of the clones by drowning the new clone wasn’t scared of getting his hands dirty he was planning every night for Alfred to come to the show and set him up.


  14. Anne peters on said:

    The end of the prestige, is it Sarah’s real father who goes to her or her uncle


  15. Ysabel on said:

    I was just curious when Borden and Sarah were fighting and Borden told her that he does not love her that day. Why didn’t Fallon and Borden exchange their identities that day so that Fallon (or the Borden who really loves Sarah) will end up talking to her that day and Sarah will know for sure that the Borden she’s talking with is the one who really loves her so she then would not be upset and hung herself.


  16. The Great Danton on said:

    I have seen the movie thrice.The movie is explained in the following words of Cutter ‘Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.’
    Actually magic don’t exist in the movie all were illusions performed by great tricksters. Borden and Fallon were twins and Angier was Lord Cadlow the entire time. Angier uses his double for his tricks and when he saw Borden on the stage he replaced the trick lock with the real lock and his double was killed and Borden was charged for murder of Angier. Actually machine didn’t work and Tesla used Angier’s money for funds. Borden explained in his diary that Tesla was only the key to his diary not to his trick. When we saw Angier kills his clone that was when Angier was explaining to Borden so that wasn’t real, In real nothing happens. At the end of the movie we can see only one clone,that wasn’t clone that was his double, Angier’s double. All those who are thinking that Fallon was a clown of Borden got it totaly wrong ‘you were not watching closely’ if Fallon was a clown then Borden knows everything i repeat everything, nothing left for the movie. Cheers


    • LAC on said:

      It is an interesting theory. However, I am wondering who all those bodies were in the other water containers below the stage. Did he just find a lot of willing doubles that looked like him? Also, I thought there was a scene where the double shot the original in Tesla’s machine.


      • James Cameron on said:

        the bodies in the water tanks below stage are Angier’s clones that are killed every time he performs.


      • The Great Danton on said:

        okay i just ignored that particular scene of water containers and movie was a treat to watch, a logical one hehe ;-) you can’t get cent percent of the movie… 1% is left of the movie if you can fill it?
        And yep the scene where double shots the original, Angier was telling to Borden and that could be a lie…Angeir did ninty nine shows with his double & trapped him in the hundred one


      • Gustav on said:

        Actually you can only spot one body in the tanks. Its too blurred to see someone else in the tanks. So I’ll go with the theory that its Angiers double who drowns.


    • Adam Hawkins on said:

      You weren’t watching closely…


    • Dan on said:

      I have to agree with this. You really only see ONE body in the water tank at the end (Angiers double). Also Cutter nor Borden ever really pay much attention to the water tanks.I would think seeing 99 dead Angiers would be quite puzzling and shocking to see considering they don’t know that this machine clones Angier. Cutter even says that this machine isn’t magic, its real. As far as he would know it simply transports Angier, there’s nothing to make him believe that it clones him.

      As far as Tesla goes, Angier was sent to Tesla to throw him off. Tesla could have easily placed those hats in a pile and find 2 black cats. Tesla say’s that he once had an obsession and it appears he still has that obsession. I don’t believe those were Edisons men coming to destroy his workshop. Why would they Tesla is “retired” and is living “off the grid”. Tesla burned down his own workshop (theres a scene we’re it shows him leaving his workshop as it burns). So Tesla does all this with the hopes that everyone finds out that he is this inventor of this “cloning machine”. And finally is able to outshine Edison.

      When Angier came back with something Bordens twin was desperate to find out what he had learned. And Angier played it off like he found the best illusion the world has ever seen after coming back from America. This in itself was the illusion.

      Really the only part that’s debatable is the scene we’re Angier is shown shooting his “clone”. But like The Great Danton said he was simply lying to Borden to make him believe that this machine actually did clone and transport him.

      Anyway that’s my view, I’m sure one comment will completely tear down all my theories lol but there ya go.


    • Nathan on said:

      You’s are all missing the fact that one dead Angier/clone was identified by Cutter on the table. We then we see another one shot dead by Borden and then a third Angier dead in the water tank, this shows that it’s not a double as three Angiers are seen dead. So the cloning part is real.


      • nolansrighthand on said:

        no Nathan… the body we see on the table is the same in the tank at the end (and that’s the only body we see in the tanks..). That is Angier’s double. The cloning is not real.. that’s the whole trick. Nolan’s use of flashback’s is used to trick our minds. Angier is Lord C. and he ALSO has a double. He kills that double once he saw Borden on stage (as mentioned by ‘The Great Danton’ in an earlier comment.

        That’s the best part of Nolan’s work. It keeps us talking and guessing for years after his work is complete.

        Just like how everyone think’s that Leo spinning the top at the end of Inception is HIS totem… when it’s not. His Totem was his wedding ring all along.

        Fantastic story telling.. fantastic film making.. Nolan just likes to put his timelines in a puzzle for us.


      • Critter on said:

        I do not think that this is the case, nolansrighthand. At the end of the film, when Angier has died from the bullet wound that Borden gave him, and we can see the body of his “double” in the tank as Borden leaves, you must note a couple of things:

        1- You can not see faces in any of the other water tanks, but you can see the silhouette of other bodies. I’ve watched just that final scene a few times now. There are definitely “things” in the other tanks. does this mean, 100% that they are other clones? No. But, it’s a good indication.

        2- When you do see this body in the water tank, it does have to be a 3rd Angier. Think of the timeline. “Angier” has already been killed in the water tank. Cutter has already identified the body. “Borden” or “freddie” if you will, has already been sentenced and hanged for the crime. Unless someone scooped up the body of Angier’s dead double, brought it back to the real Angier, where he stuffed it back into a water tank and decided to keep with the rest of his props, this theory doesn’t hold water. ::Ba-dum-ching:: Puns.


      • Jose R. Felix on said:

        Critter has it right.


    • Maxi on said:

      No, you are wrong, what about the hats and cats, that is key to the movie it’s how it starts, the machine does work, it clones his entire body but more important his consciousness.


  17. sbn on said:

    i have a doubt, the brothers lived with sarah, does that mean they are sharing wives? is nt that cheating ?


  18. gilbert on said:

    I think that Borden has used the machine and that Fallon was his clone. There was a scene while Caldlow/Angier meets Borden behind bars and he had Borden’s daughter with him, Borden says to Angier, “So you decided to get your hands dirty”. This relates back to when Cutter told Angier on how he should kill the pigeon if he wanted to do magic.This scene behind bars explains that Borden had indeed used the machine once but decided not to kill his clone and not use it again, in opposition to Angier who had decided to kill his clones and get his hands dirty.


    • shannon on said:

      Im not sure your correct. Borden told his wife that he could still do his main trick while she was treating his wounded hand this was actually fallon because she didnt understand why it hadnt healed and i believe before he went to tesla.


  19. J.R. on said:

    Is is possible that Tesla did in fact build the machine prior to Angier asking for it?

    We see a flash back in which Angier sees borden sitting calmly at a demonstration of Tesla’s that was shut down for safety concerns. Angier walks away with the crowd but Borden stays. When Angier finally meets Tesla he says he had began building it before he asked for it.

    It’s possible that the “other magician” was truely Borden and Borden used it to make a clone and then hide the clone as we saw. He was not born a twin.

    We see in the movie and others pointed out here that no one knows he has a twin. While it’s true that his family could have tried to hide him, this would have been quite difficult for a poor family in those times. Early in the movie Angier asks Cutter “where is he from?” Cutter responds by saying “The same place as you.” To me this implies that surely someone would have known of the twin so the more plausible conculsion given the facts is that he had Tesla create a clone.


  20. Melvin W. Elliott on said:

    Great synopsis, Mike! I learned a lot from it. One thing to consider, though…it makes more sense to me that Fallon was a actually a clone of Borden…and not his twin. We learned that Tesla did make a machine for another magician before Angier, and it’s quite obvious to me that it was for Borden, who only gave that clue (keyword) to Angier to save the life of “his own twin” (clone). It seems to me that Borden was willing to live with the clone and only perform the Transported Man with that one and only double. I bet he realized from the start that killing a clone each time was something he did not wish to go through. (But Angier did…and that’s one of the differences between them.)

    Although it seems a shame that either Borden (or his clone) had to die eventually, it was not their wish. It was compelled upon them by force. They only wished to live in peace, and keep their secret to themselves. Yet Angier was quite a different person — jealous, vindictive, and devious.

    Think about that for a bit. Although the movie never actually tells us this, it does make a lot of sense to me…and helps to understand much about the differences between the characters of the two magicians. I believe the “best man” won in the end.


    • Mike on said:

      Melvin, fine point. But Tesla didn’t build a machine for any other magician.

      His assistant, Alley, told Angier that he had, because Alley knew that he and Telsa were virtually broke. He had to lie to Angier to get their money, so they could keep going on their research.

      The fact that Tesla built the machine to do what Angier wanted was either pure luck, or the fact that Tesla was brilliant.

      You have to remember, too, that Angier asked Telsa to build him a machine that would transport him. He never said anything about building a machine that would duplicate him. The fact that Tesla presented him a machine that did so is almost moot when comparing Borden’s trick to Angier’s trick. If Borden never really had a machine, it’s infeasible to think that he had a clone.

      You also have to remember that “twins” in the late 1800s were treated as outcasts and freaks of nature. Which is why no one attending a show (who lived in the country where Borden grew up and had an accent from) was ever like “HE HAS A TWIN BROTHER, I GREW UP WITH THEM!” Twins were hidden away by their parents, it was common practice for that era.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong about Borden having a clone — but you’re wrong. ;-)


      • Mark on said:

        Good point, But i dont think Melvin is wrong.

        First, it was Borden who introduced Tesla to Angier, and he also told him that the keyword(Tesla) was his method. Maybe Tesla didn’t build the machine for Borden, but could Borden be one of Tesla’s test subjects? Tesla could have cloned him at a earlier date and Borden treated the clone as his twin brother.

        At the Royal Albert Hall where Tesla exhibited his discovery, Borden was sitting near to the stage and he was the only guy who remained calm, because he had seen it before.

        Angier asked Tesla to build him something impossible, and Tesla did.
        Furthermore, Angier did transport, he transported to where he put the box. The machine is both a cloning machine and a transportation machine.

        I’m not saying that you are wrong, there are just many possibilities for us to mind fuck ourselves. ;-)


      • Jaime on said:

        When Borden talked to his “brother ” clone he talked to him like he was talking to himself not to a brother meaning that he sees his clone as himself


      • mike2 on said:


        So Borden sending him to Tesla as a complete misdirection leads to Tesla actually perfecting a cloning device!

        Do you really think that coincidence (which your understanding depends on) makes sense? Which is why others have been forced to come up with the alternate theories


    • Caspar on said:

      good one Melvin!


  21. John on said:

    I would have to agree with Jason in some sense, but I could only imagine that a clone wouldn’t take it too lightly if the original Angier explained that the clone would be the one dying. Instead, for his first show out of the 100, Angier could slip away from drowning after cloning himself, opens the trick lock on the tank, puts in a fake body in there and live the rest of his life in the shadows. Maybe check out his own shows once in a while to make sure his clone is constantly recycling themselves. Then when everything blows over and ends with Angier getting shot by Borden, it would have been the last clone that gets shot and Angier continues to live on. That would be an amazing mindfnck way to end the movie after seeing Angier get shot by Borden, another Angier (the original) appears alive.


    • Angela on said:

      Too complicated. There are no clones. There is no evidence of clones. Remember the film is about illusion not magic. The writer just wants to get people to think too hard about it but its very simple- angier as we know, had a double. The double or angier died in the tank… The other performances he fell through the trapdoor, that’s it. Very simple.


  22. Henry on said:

    You have a mistake!
    You have changed them in one scene.

    1:32:44 – “Olivia means nothing to me,” Borden tells Sarah. This is true; the other Borden is the one who loves Olivia.

    1:34:07 – “Do you love me?” Sarah asks Borden. “Not today, no” he replies. The other Borden is the one who loves her.


  23. Jason on said:

    Why wouldn’t angier simply clone himself once, then clone his clones forever while he got to live on as the lord guy. It would ensure that he himself would never die no matter what. He was able to frame borden, get fallon to kill one of his clones, and then live happily ever after once he saved his cloning machine after watching fallon leave. He could have dumped all of his clones bodies all at once anywhere that he wanted and it would add to his mystery and legend. Imagine, after his highly publicized death and Bordens trial, 100 dead Angiers floating down the english channel. Tesla was probably in need of some cadavers and live test subjects, therefore they could be buds for ever. Also I highly doubt in Angiers state of mind, that he would only attempt at shutting down Borden. There must’ve been other magicians he could set up. And what about the whole world domination thing, why didn’t that happen. Anyways, I could go on forever in that universe. Great movie!!!


  24. Gene on said:

    Really loved your breakdown of the movie….I Have only ONE real disagreement. When Alfred Borden is about to be hung, his last words are, “I’m Fallon”…..I don’t know where you get “Abacadabra” from. That does not tie in with the movie at all. I can only suspect that you put your TV on CC and assume that the CC is “100%” correct. Sorry CC is not 100% accurate. “I’m Fallon” makes sense with the whole story.


  25. John Doe on said:

    I think Borden/Fallon thought he had won and finished things at the end of the film when he killed Caldlow/Angier, but the this was angiers biggest deception, Angier obviously suspected there was two bordens and knew the only way he could ‘know for sure’ was to have him killed. Caldlow watched Borden kill a clone at the end so he finally knew for sure.


    • Scott Mather on said:

      Yep.. Surprised no one has mentioned last-second appearance of Lord Caldlow until you did just now. Were they watching closely? ;)


      • Scott Mather on said:

        Actually, everyone says this is just a body in a tank. I didn’t see the tank. Guess I’d better watch it again (and again!).


      • Default User on said:

        Wow, never noticed that, but you may be right. As the camera pans left past the tank, a small air bubble appears to rise in the water at the last second.


Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.


Older Comments


Post Navigation

Similar Posts

Share This Post

© 2005 - present | All images represented here remain the property of their original owners. claims no ownership of any promotional image, movie still, video or press shot displayed on this website!