Now You See Me (2013)

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.

The world of magic is a truly fascinating subject, yet surprisingly only a handful of films have been successfully able to explore this interesting area whilst creating a compelling picture. This year director Louis Leterrier, The Incredible Hulk (2008), tries his luck with Now You See Me, a feature with an original premise that offers something unique and thrilling while exploring the world of magic and magicians.

Four down on their luck magicians, J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are mysteriously brought together by an anonymous person who gives them the blue prints to a great illusion. One year later, the magicians reappear as The Four Horseman, and during a show in Las Vegas sponsored by the millionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), they heist a bank in Paris from the stage and distribute the money to the audience right before their very eyes. The incident is immediately brought to the attention of the FBI where agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is called to investigate the theft and is partnered with Interpol Agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent).With the baffling case hitting a dead-end for the FBI, the agents turn to Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a former magician who now exposes magic as simple trickery. What follows is a bizarre investigation where nothing is what it seems as illusions, dark secrets and hidden agendas come into light and all involved are constantly reminded of a great truth in this puzzle: the closer you look, the less you see.

The Four Horseman, lighting the way to box office success!
The Four Horseman, lighting the way to box office success!

While the initial premise of Now You See Me is interesting enough, the pictures as a whole lacks any depth or substance. The film begins on a high note with some background information on the Four Horsemen, but sadly, everything we learn about these characters is revealed in the first few minutes of the film, making it difficult to truly connect with the magicians during the remainder of the picture. It’s evident that Now You See Me was constructed around the film’s ‘big reveal’ which is exposed at the film’s finale, yet the twists and turns along the way aren’t considerably convincing nor surprising, instead, they’re rather implausible. Although it is difficult to see these twists and turns coming, this isn’t due to skilful misdirection, a tactic many magicians often use, instead, it’s through their utter improbability. By the film’s third act, when director Leterrier starts tracking backward to earlier events in the picture, explaining how people were fooled along the way, what’s presented is less convincing than simply believing in real magic itself, making the final twist outright disappointing.

Although Now You See Me sports a stellar cast, most are totally wasted. Leads, Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network (2010) and Woody Harrelson, No Country for Old Men (2007), who also starred together in Zombieland (2009), do their best with this flimsy script, written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt, as their hollow characters don’t have much to do throughout the film, simply trotting along from one elaborate trick to the next. The stunning and always satisfying Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers (2005), is squandered with little screen time and character development, as are the usually entrancing veteran actors Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and Michael Caine, Harry Brown (2009), who appear to be miscast here more than anything else. Only Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers (2012), and his partner Mélanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds (2009), are explored a bit further as we, the audience, learn about their characters throughout the narrative while discovering the truth behind the Four Horsemen’s trick.

Isla Fisher's going to be late for dinner, she's a bit tied down at the moment!
Isla Fisher’s going to be late for dinner, she’s a bit tied down at the moment!

It’s not all bad however, as Now You See Me does contain some interesting set pieces including a stunt involving a tank of hungry piranhas and a few thrilling action sequences scattered throughout, but looking at the big picture though, most of the magic on display here is impossible, improbable, or just plain silly. The actors try their best, but again are ultimately let down by the far-fetched script and narrative. The picture also seems to be stuffed with unnecessary GCI effects such as flying bubbles and cards, all of which could have easily been done practically; a true sign of lazy filmmaking. It’s just a shame as Now You See Me could have been so much more, given its intriguing premise and stellar cast. With an unnecessary sequel already having been green-lit, let’s hope all involved pick their act up on this second attempt at making ‘magic’ and create a more satisfying show.

In the end, Now You See Me is just a typical mediocre Hollywood thriller that starts out okay, but ultimately dissatisfies with its twisting plot, leaving us feeling cheated by the time it’s through. This magic trick, with its elaborate and exciting build-up, sadly finishes with absolutely no sense of awe.

2.5 / 5 – Alright

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Now You See Me is released through Hopscotch Films Australia