I will not go into the plot, based upon a novel by Christopher Priest, except to say that it exposes the lives of two ambitious stage magicians of Edwardian times. They start out working together as apprentices, and a tragic error of judgement binds them into a spiral of obsession, revenge, and sabotage that grows increasingly vicious, violent, murderous, and finally diabolical.
There was some fine acting in this harrowing story, in particular by the two opponents, Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier (a.k.a. "The Great Danton") and Christian Bale as Alfred Borden (a.k.a. "The Professor") in roles as respectively different from their recent superhero incarnations ("Wolverine" and "Batman" respectively) as can be imagined. They are very ably supported by Scarlett Johanssen as the assistant who loves both of them; veteran Michael Caine as Cutter the engineer; David Bowie (!) and Andy Serkis as Nichola Tesla and his assistant; and Rebecca Hall as Sarah Borden.
LEAVE THE CHILDREN AT HOME! Just because this is a movie about magicians does not mean it is a nice movie. There are disturbing scenes of death, pain, and very scary amounts of electricity. I found the violence more disturbing than in a shoot-em-up, because whan it happens it is very sudden, out of place as violence should be, and very, very personal.
That aside, very well done. There are a few plot holes that only appear after close review, as well as a few clues to what was really happening that also only become understandable later.