Movie Review: Now You See Me

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A group of four magicians with different styles are brought together by a mystery person in order to commit crime, and are pursued by the untested partnership of an FBI agent and an Interpol detective.

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Louis Leterrier, 2013

The group of magicians consists of mentalist Merritt McKinley (Woody Harrelson), showman Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), escape illusionist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and clever trickster Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), and they become the hottest magical ticket in the country after following orders left by their mysterious summoner, whose magic tricks hold the promise of bigger and brighter things. When their first show together consists of robbing a Parisian bank from the comfort of Las Vegas, FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes is assigned the case and is joined by Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), sent from Interpol to investigate for the French government. What follows is a magical game of cat-and-mouse, as the team use their wits to outsmart their opponents at every turn, using steadily flashier tricks. They also need to stay ahead of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a former magician who now exposes the tricks behind the magic, whom the FBI is consulting for insight.

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This is a slick film with a well-put-together cast that isn’t particularly well supported by the shakiest of scripts. Morgan Freeman earns his fair share of freckles explaining even the most obvious of illusions to clueless FBI guy Ruffalo, but his typical role of wise man is amusingly subverted later in the piece. Particularly enjoyable is a scene where Thaddeus and Michael Caine’s Arthur Tressler get to square off, both posturing men trying to manipulate the other without realising how little power they really have against one another. The four magicians spark off each other particularly well, which is why it’s a shame when the focus shifts to almost completely ignoring them for a large portion of the movie, denying them time to develop. Isla Fisher’s Henley, who has the best introduction (a wicked and subversive trick that was my personal favourite in the whole film), suffers the most from the shift in narrative to the agents’ chase. That being said, the agents have their own charm. Ruffalo is an attractive, grumpy delight as the skeptical agent, while Laurent sparkles opposite him as the woman who wants to believe in the real deal – I challenge anyone not to smile when that woman laughs. The magic shows are extravagant fun and there’s some slick chase scenes and outmaneuvering.

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Unfortunately, the story falls apart when held under a microscope. The twist is twisty enough, but if you aren’t entirely prepared to suspend diseblief then you’ll be able to pick apart the threads fairly easily. Particularly disappointing is the ending – it feels like they had this great idea about magician thieves and then no idea where they were going with it, and it shows in what isn’t so much an ending as an unconvincing illusion of one.  Essentially, your enjoyment of the ride will come down to whether you prefer the journey or the destination. Yeah, the ending is bad, and the script is pretty weak, but the ride is fun with shiny distractions and big flash-bang tricks to keep you from delving too deep. If you’re looking to check your brain at the door and have a good time watching decent actors entertain you, I say it’s worth watching – and personally, even though the train went nowhere, I had a good time getting there.

Now You See Me on IMDb

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