Now You See Me

Now You See Me photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgPerhaps it was the wonder of magician Doug Henning’s TV specials that I saw at an impressionable age or maybe because I was given a Presto Magic Show Set (complete with magician’s performance table! ) when I was 5. Whatever the reason, I am sort of predisposed to enjoy films about magicians. Not since 2006 have we had such an influx of movies regarding the profession: both The Prestige and The Illusionist came out. That was a banner year. I keep hoping another will live up to that high standard. 2013 isn’t that year, but it’s the closest we’ve come since. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone debuted back in March and Now You See Me was released in May. While I thought the Steve Carrel film was acceptable, this one is even better.

A super-team of illusionists are brought together by a mysterious manipulator who dubs them The Four Horsemen. This unseen entity gives them the blueprints for an elaborate stage production. Then one day after performing successfully for over a year, they’re playing to a packed house in Las Vegas. For their grand finale the magic group seemingly robs millions of Euros from a bank in Paris. Now it’s up to an FBI officer and his squad to solve the mystery of what happened to the missing cash.

A star-studded cast and captivating plot highlight this entertaining escapade. The appealing premise had me instantly hooked. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco are charismatic magicians each with different specialties. Arrogant and smug their personalities mesh together well into a slick show. Yet they’re apparently merely the puppets in an intricate scheme to mask the real crime. Mark Ruffalo plays FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes who joins forces with Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent) to get to the bottom of this conundrum. Michael Caine is the wealthy benefactor that funds their successful theatrics and Morgan Freeman is the skeptic who debunks magicians on his reality series. Just who is behind the very real disappearance of the money? As the chronicle evolves, the action displays The Four Horsemen’s humorous ability to always stay one step ahead of the FBI and his team. The U.S. agency begins to look kind of bumbling.

Now You See Me has a brilliant set up. Over time that semblance of sense gives way to a pretty convoluted third act that will require a willing suspension of disbelief in order to swallow all that came before it. For example the clarification of what actually happens during a car crash is completely ludicrous. The details don’t hold up, but that still doesn’t mean the picture isn’t fun. For a good while, the developments are fast paced and lively. There’s CGI galore to emphasize the style of their illusions. The cinematography is a bit dizzy. A little less spinning camerawork would’ve sufficed. I suppose that’s the art of misdirection at work, but it also imparts a lighthearted panache that never allows the audience to take this subject too seriously. There’s no way anyone could possibly explain the ‘how’ or ‘why’ until the very end, but it’s still interesting enough to hold your attention.

Addendum: I was captivated by the premise enough to see this. So were a lot of other people. Only $7M kept Now You See Me from being the #1 movie opening weekend in U.S. That was against Fast & Furious 6 in it’s 2nd week and After Earth in its 1st. I like surprises….especially ones involving magic.

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26 Responses to “Now You See Me”

  1. Glad to read a positive review of this film as it’s score on RT had me frightened. Also very jealous that your folks spent the extra coin on the presto magic kit with the table. Alakazam!

  2. interesting. i’ll have to rent this one.

  3. “The details don’t hold up, but that still doesn’t mean the picture isn’t fun.” totally true. I have to admit, I was disappointed in it, I thought it could be a lot better. But still, even after all the silly stuff that goes on, it was a decent flick!

  4. Good stuff Mark. I probably slammed this thing harder than I should have, it really was a good load of fun. Can’t believe it competed with Fast 6 that well….or maybe I’m more surprised that Fast 6 is really that successful. ….

    • I just read your review and left a comment. Comparing it to something M. Night Shyamalan might think up was REALLY harsh. Them’s fighting’ words!

      But seriously you were right about the “reveal” at the end. It doesn’t hold up but the majority of the film was so fun I guess I was willing to still give this a recommendation.

  5. Great review. I’m really interested in seeing this one.

  6. Good review Mark. I had fun for the most part, but once it gets to that final conclusion, something didn’t sit so right with me.

    • It definitely doesn’t add up. It would’ve been very hard to explain everything we had just seen intelligently. And this script didn’t do that, but it was pretty entertaining anyway.

  7. I adored this. Walked out and said to the Boy “I either want to go heist or go back to my dream of being a magician’s assistant.” 😉 Didn’t see the twist for sure but if you suspend disbelief, it’s doable.

  8. How is Melanie Laurent?

  9. Hmm, I’m beginning to think that I probably dislike this one more than most bloggers, ahah. I thought the magic stuff just weren’t all that spectacular, apart from that first one, and the ending is just lame. Such a waste of potential and good actors.

  10. So glad I saw this, instead of “After Earth”. I knew I would enjoy this. The previews sucked me in. I too love illusionists. It was just a twisting turning fun ride. Thought the actors did a good job. Except for Isla, she was kinda weak. 3 1/2 stars.

    • Since there were 4 of them, I didn’t think the narrative relied on any one illusionist too much so Isla Fisher seemed adequate for the role.

    • GaryLee828 Says:

      Pfft, you crazy, Isla was awesome in this role! 🙂 And she looks better in this than in other films where she was younger. She’s aging very well. 37 but looks 27.

  11. GaryLee828 Says:

    I agree with you on pretty much everything you said here; the magicians and their tricks was definitely the best part – along with the score. I think I will buy this one, as I did “Trance”.

    And I agree the ending could have been better, but what I’m hoping for is a sequel that helps tie up loose ends and takes us into the “eye”, etc.

    • That’s a thought. How about a movie that focuses on the four magicians and not on the bumbling CIA detective? Let’s learn more about “The Eye.” What’s this group all about, why do they want to get it, and what happens when/if they do?

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