Review: Now You See Me

Directed by: Louis Leterrier

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine.

Rating:   Running Time: 115 mins.

Four magicians from all walks of life are sent a tarot card with a date, time, and an address in New York for them to turn up to at the same time. The four include J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) – a street magic performer, Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) – a mentalist who hustles holidaymakers in Vegas, Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) – a one girl magician performing magic tricks at a club, and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) – a street pickpocket that uses magic as his means of distracting potential targets. Arriving at an empty and dis-used apartment, they find blueprints for an elaborate trick that they perform on stage one year later in Vegas thanks to their benefactor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).

Calling themselves The Four Horsemen, their show magically teleports a member of their audience to his bank in France, and proceeds to rob the bank of three million euros which immediately showers down on the audience in Vegas. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffallo) is called in to investigate them with Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), as that morning in France, the bank opened their safe to find the money had really gone. Also called into the mix by Rhodes is Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a debunker of magical acts who sets out to show how the Four Horsemen do their tricks for his internet show.

Now You See Me doesn’t really show magic as we would see it in real life. This is movie magic, where a special effect serves to provide us with a dazzling display that literally is impossible in reality.

But that’s okay.

We’re constantly told and reminded that the real art of magic is mis-direction, that you’re attention is drawn to watch the left hand while the right hand is where you should be looking – follow this rule and you’ll see how the magician pulls off his trick. But that’s not the case with movie magic. With movie magic, your attention is focused purely on wherever the director wants you to be focused. You can be spoon fed whatever the left hand is doing while the right hand does whatever it’s doing outside of the frame or behind the camera. This applies to any actual magic tricks displayed in the movie, which are very expertly directed, but this same mis-direction is not applied to the storytelling, as unfortunately the scripting is not as clever as it thinks it is.

The further along the movie goes, the more predictable it becomes, and that won’t just be to the people who are thinking ahead and wondering where the movie is going, that will be everyone in the audience because the movie makes them wonder where it’s going. Instead of making us focus on the left hand – on the journey of the movie as it happens, it has characters spouting expositional dialogue, or displaying things too much so that when something happens later in the movie we’re supposed to already know that is how it was done instead of being amazed by it.

There’s also an issue that as the movie goes on longer, the more and more it begins to fall apart and feel as though it’s been through re-writes and re-shoots. It tries to sucker punch the audience with surprise twists. Why? Because it can, not because the story calls for it. One such twist I predicted moments before it happened and all the way leading up to it’s reveal, the movie had me hoping, wishing that it wouldn’t do it, and ultimately losing my interest because it did and felt so out of place.

This is a real shame, as the movie has an impressive cast who are all great in their roles. Jesse Eisenberg is more confident in this role than I’ve ever seen him before, completely convincing and as charismatic as a street magician. Woody Harrelson is also not only convincing as a mentalist who is expert at hypnosis and picking up the facial ticks a person displays when questioned as to appear to read their minds, but is consistently a great source of humour throughout the movie (the interrogation scene with him, Ruffalo and Laurent in a room together is a hugely fun sequence where they are just talking), and Ruffalo is great throughout as a unwilling entrant into the situation who at first wants nothing to do with the case until the Four Horsemen piss him off.

The remaining members of the Four Horsemen are somewhat smaller roles, with Isla Fisher and Dave Franco giving as good performances as their co-stars, but not having as much to do story wise. Melanie Laurent has a stronger female role than the average movie, and she brings to it a determination and an aggressiveness that compliments her casting. Freeman and Caine are also their great usual selves, but again are really supporting characters, and are relegated to the background save for a couple of small scenes.

Now you see me starts out as an above average thriller with some very nice elements in the first half, but ultimately starts to fall apart the longer it goes on. Had they stripped it down from it’s 115 minutes to nearer the 90-95 minute mark, it may have been a solid movie, but it ends up falling short of that. Entertaining, but not as magical as it should be.

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Posted on July 4, 2013, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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