Illusion-based movies are hard to execute. Why? Simply because it’s an illusion within an illusion. After all, it’s easy to deceive if you’re already watching a medium requiring an amount of deception to begin with. Films like “The Illusionist” and “The Prestige” are among many who have delved into the world of magic, albeit much more boldly than this one. Having said that, “Now You See Me” is a fun, entertaining, and ambitious film that leaves much to be desired after it has drawn the curtain on its grand finale.
Four up and coming magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco), each with their own strength of certain trickery, are summoned to an apartment with four distinct tarot cards. Sounds cheesy, right? Well, the premise kind of is, but the execution is enticing. When they all arrive at the apartment, there’s nothing there but an empty place and a holographic blueprint detailing what they are to do next. We never do see what happens after that as we are taken a year into the future for the magicians’ (now called The Four Horseman) first big show in Las Vegas.
For their final act, the four bring an audience member onto the stage and zap him to a bank in another country (or is it?). The four rob an actual bank during their trick and of course, end up drawing the attention of local agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo). Rhodes is surly and unhappy about the case and immediately seeks out the help and expertise of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a man who has spent his entire career unraveling the mystery of every magician’s illusions. Along with Rhodes’s new partner from Interpol (Mélanie Laurent), the three set out to catch the illusionists-turned-thieves before the entire deception goes too far.
The Four Horseman are truly bona fide magicians though, unafraid to trick even the cops because they’re so confident in what they’re doing. Harrelson is the standout of the group though, his comedic timing and performance greatly entertaining and chuckle-worthy. The entire cast slip into their roles easily, though non of them have much to do in way of character development; the characters could have been given more of a background story or some more information regarding certain aspects. It’s understandably hard to do when there are too many characters to balance, but it would have shed some light on certain events and made the ending less of an eyebrow-raising moment. But, you know, it’s magic and “the more you think you see, the easier it is to fool you” apparently, so there you have it.
One complaint I do have is the supposed romance between Ruffalo and Laurent’s characters. It’s tacked on and unnecessary, leaving you wondering why they even bother putting it in there in the first place. Movies do need to stop doing that. It isn’t always necessary and doesn’t always serve the story to have a romance, however brief and small, in a film like “Now You See Me.” It throws off some of the momentum and falls completely flat because it’s forced.
Regardless of certain aspects, there’s definitely a lot to like about “Now You See Me.” Between the awe-inspiring illusions, chase sequences, and flashiness of it all, it really does remind you of watching an up close and personal magic show. Even the bunny in a hat makes an appearance. “Now You See Me” is an entertaining act of deception and ambition. The movie is light enough without brushing too much against the darker aspects of magic like some of its predecessors, and in this case, it works to the story’s advantage. The build-up of the story and suspense is well done and moves at a great pace for most of the film, which is enough to keep you invested.
Louis Leterrier brings us a movie straight out of a magic trick. The deception and high entertainment value that the Four Horseman offer their audience makes us feel like we are sitting in a theater watching a true-to-life magic show full of lights, showmanship, and dramatic performances. The beginning of the film is intriguing, the middle wildly entertaining and the chases between the police and the magicians suspenseful. The finale is where you’ll want to stop and wonder if you missed something along the way though. The reveal may make you gasp, but will also give you pause. It’s a head scratcher that may or may not make any sense after you go back to analyze the film’s previous events. It’s also somewhat of a shame and a downer given the first three-quarters of the film is a highly well-coordinated act with a lot to offer in its execution and style.