Review: Now You See Me
A group of street magicians, brought together by an unknown force, use a show to stage a spectacular bank heist. An FBI Agent reluctantly teams up with an Interpol officer, go on a hunt where no one can be trusted, and nothing is what it seems. Or is it?
Who’s in It?
The Four Horsemen, as the magicians call themselves, are Woody Harrelson, hysterical; Jessie Eisenberg, funny when with Woody; Isla Fisher, forgettable; and Dave Franco, momentarily exciting. On their tail is the fabulous Mark Ruffalo, while Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman show up to play their typical affluent and ominous selves, respectively.
Michael Atlas had my card. He performs a trick on a lovely young lady, but he stares at the camera when talking to her – he is performing it on the viewer too. He fans the deck for you to pick. He fans again. I saw one, and so did the girl; the same one. And Michael presents us both with his correct pick in dramatic fashion.
It may not be your card, but he picked mine, and he was charming, so he, and the movie, had me hooked pretty quickly. The reason is simple, and it’s alluded to briefly in a rare thoughtful moment later on. It’s fun to believe in magic, and it’s fun to buy in to something that isn’t grounded in reality (extrapolate that further, and it’s fun to believe in movies). I desire the mystery, and deep down I want to try and figure out how the trick is done, but I don’t want to really know – the truth almost always ruins.
Unfortunately like most movies this year, Now You See Me is very good until it isn’t; it’s entertaining until it’s trite, and it’s mysterious until it’s silly. Like a magic trick, it lures you in with charming stars, flashy lights, sweeping pans, dulcet sounds and pretty accents. Where magicians leave you curious and mesmerized though, director Louis Leterrier, alongside some influencers, producers, and focus groups it would seem, decide to ruin everything by needless exposition and an absurd conclusion, revealing everything.
A lengthy pre-title sequence shows the talents of each of these four magicians with some pretty and entertaining slight-of-hands, though Harrelson as the mentalist stands out more than any. A year later, performing at Aria in Vegas, a mysterious onlooker (Freeman) illegally films the show, and a rich investor (Caine) takes credit for funding the lavish event. For the elaborate finale, the quartet directs a man to rob a bank halfway around the world, and in minutes, it happens.
The onlooker is Thaddeus Bradley, a former trickster who makes money revealing the secrets of magicians, and attracting a lot of ill will. He explains how the heist was pulled off to Agent Dylan Hobbs (an awesome Mark Ruffalo who curiously becomes the center of attention far more so than the Horseman) and it’s both fascinating and satisfying.
The reveals that follow, though, tarnish the entire act. The conclusion of this slick, entertaining, and captivating caper, which is a mélange of Ocean’s 11, The Prestige, and some Fast and Furious action, is completely ludicrous and instantly off-putting, so obviously pandering and so easily contradicted by the previous 100 minutes of movie. It’s almost as if there are two movies –the one that wants to be told, and the one that those amorphous suits want to sell more tickets, the latter of which of course always includes some sort of forced romance. It’s a shame, and certainly not at all magical.
Should You See It?
So much of it is pretty good. See it, but sneak out before the last 10 minutes, and allow the mystery remain so, far more interesting.
“Illusions, Michael! Tricks are something a whore does for money…or candy.”
Wait, I think that’s from something else entirely….