Movie Review: ‘Now You See Me’
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mélanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco
Plot: Four morally ambiguous but talented street magicians are recruited by a mysterious organisation to carry out a series of shows with a secret purpose. A year later they are the world famous ‘Four Horseman’, stage magicians who famously pull off a bank robbery as part of their show. As the FBI and Interpol move in the mystery behind their performance becomes more complex.
Review: Magicians make for good cinema fodder. When we see a magic trick in real life we know there’s a simple idea behind it. On a cinema screen there may be real magic at work (even though it’s often more interesting when it’s not). We always have a good reveal to look forward to and some crafty ideas to enjoy. With Now You See Me director Leterrier (best described as hit and miss) does manage the flashiness and twists and turns quite well – so long as you don’t think about to hard.
Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher and Franco feature as the Four Horseman, extravagant magicians who pull a variety of scams during their shows while eluding the authorities. This in itself is a solid concept and the four of them slip into the roles very well. Eisenberg is the stand out, performing clever sleights of hand that suggest he has been practising for this role. His attention grabbing card trick in the opening scene was performed without any sneaky editing, making it all the more impressive. These four are easily the most interesting characters in the movie but aside from some hints at their backstories they take a back seat to most of the action. Leterrier has shot himself in the foot here, making his most interesting element essential to the central mysteries of the plot therefore not being able to focus on them.
When the magicians are not around the action rests on the shoulders of Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent, two agents, representing the FBI and Interpol respectively, are tasked with nailing the Four Horsemen. The pair are more than capable of carrying the movie on their own, but amid the rest of the performers they do feel like the vanilla at 31 Flavours. They play their parts well and manage to act as an anchor for the audience, but the love story that develops feels crowbarred in, especially given the short amount of time that they know each other and that they don’t often seem to tolerate each others company very well.
Rounding out the cast is Michael Caine going through the motions as the investor behind the Four Horsemen (but not the one pulling the strings) and Morgan Freeman as a magic debunker. This lavish character initially appears to be there only to explain how the tricks work for Ruffalo and those watching at home, but he become more intricate to the plot even when doing little more then providing exposition.
Leterrier has always been at home creating elaborate and imaginative action sequences, as anyone who has seen The Transporter can attest. He puts this skill to good use in Now You See Me with the action scenes and magic tricks being constantly entertaining. One highlight is Dave Franco’s character using his sleight of hand tricks to gain the upper hand during a fist fight with the cops, a fantastically paced sequence that you’ll be careful not to blink during. The stage shows are fun to watch as well, and the deconstruction of the bank robbery trick is fun to watch. It’s not a movie that ever gets boring.
When the big reveal comes at the end (and don’t pretend that you weren’t expecting one) everything fizzles out. It feels as though Leterrier forgot to finish the movie. Instead of explaining how the final tricks were accomplished or even what happens to the magicians (or if their ‘prize’ was real) the focus shifts back to the romantic sub-plot, which was the weakest part of the film. The reveal itself is pretty standard Hollywood fare, so without the addition of the rest of the reveal it really is very anti-climatic. The Prestige also featured a somewhat daytime soap twist, but one so well integrated into the film that it worked.
Now You See Me is a movie where the whole is not as strong as the parts. The actors are well cast and put in solid performances. The action is fun and put together nicely. The problem lies after the movie has finished and the plot holes start revealing themselves. What was the magicians motivation for going along with this? How did the person behind it all get everything put together? Was the Eye of Horus real, and what happened to the Four Horsemen at the end of it all?
The more you think about it the less sense it makes. The best thing to do is to go and see it, enjoy it, and never, ever look closely at it.
SEVEN out of TEN