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The premise of this Victorian drama—a London theatrical magician (Hugh Jackman) tries to fend off a more cunning rival (Christian Bale)—weirdly parallels the predicament of director Christopher Nolan, whose movie opened in the long shadow of Neil Burger's The Illusionist. That movie also centers on a 19th-century magician, and the elegant contours of its story are even more impressive compared with Nolan's clutter of double and triple crosses. A substantial subplot here involves Jackman developing a secret project with pioneering electrical engineer Nikola Tesla (a delectably arch David Bowie); it doesn't really add anything, but Tesla's high-voltage coils throw off a lot more lightning than Scarlett Johansson as Jackman's sultry stage assistant. With Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, and Rebecca Hall. PG-13, 131 min.

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