Directed by Louis Leterrier, the guy who brought us the first two “Transporter” movies, “The Incredible Hulk” and “Clash of the Titans,” the new film Now You See Me stars an all-star cast in a storyline that’s a mixture between “Oceans 11” and “The Prestige.” Find out after the break, how this combination sizes up as a movie.
Now You See Me is a crime caper about a group of illusionists that are brought together by an unknown party to perform magic acts in order to rob banks. The film starts by introducing us to these four very different prestidigitators. We have a womanizing street magician named Atlas (played by Jesse Eisenberg.) We have his former assistant Henley (Isla Fisher) who has become a popular escape artist of the Penn and Teller shock variety. We have Merritt (Woody Harrelson,) a mentalist/hypnotist who uses his abilities for nefarious means in order to make a profit. Lastly, we have Jack (Dave Franco) who uses sleight of hand skills to steal and scam people.
As a group called the Four Horsemen, their first show happens in Las Vegas and it ends with them somehow magically robbing a bank in France. FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes(Mark Ruffalo) and French Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) are brought onto the case, so they can get to the bottom of how the trick was done and who’s responsible. At the same time the group is also being pursued by Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman,) a former magician who now debunks other magicians tricks for his popular TV show. Michael Caine also makes an appearance as the Four Horsemen’s rich benefactor.
Now You See Me is packed with a load of acting talent and the actors seem to be having lots of fun with their parts. There’s a lot of humor in general to this film, thanks to the camaraderie and competitiveness between the characters. That’s really due in part to the expert casting from newcomers to old school actors. Harrelson has the most fun with is role, where his ability to read into people a little too much, allows him to prod and poke to get the upper hand. Of course, I doubt anybody can be put into a hypnotic state as fast as Harrelson does it, but I guess that’s where the suspension of disbelief comes into play.
Visually, the film is shot beautifully with a kinetic style and visual palate that complements the actors’ performances, various magic tricks and stunt set pieces. As to the magic tricks, I know that David Copperfield was a magic advisor on the film, so many of the tricks do seem like there could be variations done of them in real life. There’s still a digital nuance to many of the film’s magic acts which takes away from the wonder a little bit.
My only issue with the film can be ascertained from the popular line used by Eisenberg’s character. He says, “The first rule of magic: Always be the smartest guy in the room.” This is true to some degree, but the script tries to be too “smart” for its own good. The majority of the characters don’t really change at all throughout the film. There’s no real character arcs. And by character arc, I don’t mean explaining a backstory that gives the person an arc. When the big magical revelation and twist happens at the end of the film, this makes this problem even more apparent. The kind of switcheroo that worked for The Prestige but not so much for this picture.
As a big fan of any kind of magician-oriented TV or movie property (such as The Prestige, The Illusionist, Jonathan Creek, Blacke’s Magic, etc), I found Now You See Me to be an entertaining and fun little heist flick that taps into the interesting premise of magicians robbing banks. Although the majority of the film was an extremely satisfying experience, the ending needed a better trick up its sleeve.
Now You See Me is out in theaters now.