Now You See Me Review
Posted by Joseph Lee on 06.02.2013
The only trick here is stealing your hard-earned money.
*Jesse Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas
*Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes
*Woody Harrelson as Merritt Osbourne
*Mélanie Laurent as Alma Vargas
*Isla Fisher as Henley Reeves
*Dave Franco as Jack Wilder
*Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler
*Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley
*Common as Evans
Story: An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.
Trivia: Michael Caine was locked in his dressing room for a whole night during the shooting of the movie. Caine fell asleep after shooting and couldn't hear when the director called the day a wrap. Everyone thought that Caine left and the set was closed. Caine wake up in the pitch dark and wasn't released until the morning until someone heard his cries for help.
Magician movies aren't common in Hollywood and a good magician movie is even rarer. Just this year The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was released, a box office flop that didn't score well with critics or general audiences. Now You See Me is the latest film about magic, this time turning the magicians from entertainers to thieves. It's an interesting premise, but does is it a trick or a treat?
The movie opens with each of the four magicians practicing their speciality in different parts of the world. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg) is all about slight of hand, Henley (Fisher) is an escape artist, Merritt (Harrelson) is a mentalist and Jack (Dave Franco) doesn't appear to be very good at his job. They're all summoned to a mysterious apartment and given plans for a huge magic show. One year later, they're one of the biggest magic acts in the world, and that's when they rob a bank and give the money to their audience.
The movie is full of mystery as the FBI (led by Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol (Melanie Laurent) try to catch the thieves, the movie turns up very little in the way of satisfying answers. It's a movie that, much like a magic show, is all about thrilling the audience with misdirection and tricks but overall providing a fairly empty experience. It's something that can thrill you momentarily, but not necessary stick with you when it's over.
As the story continues the tricks get more impressive and the story gets less so. It offers up misdirection after misdirection, attempting to stay several steps ahead of its audience but not really looking to see where it's going. At the end of the film, it doesn't seem to matter where we ended up just how we got there.
Sometimes if a movie doesn't deliver in the story, it can make up for it with strong characters or acting. This doesn't really have much of either. The actors here are as good as you've seen them in the past, just playing themselves. Jesse Eisenberg plays the same character he played in The Social Network, just as a magician. Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman with earrings. Michael Caine is Alfred, somehow grumpy after inheriting Bruce Wayne's money in The Dark Knight Rises. There's no real effort from anyone apart from Mark Ruffalo, who seems to give the film more weight than it probably deserves.
There are some positives. The magic tricks and action sequences do try to be thrilling and mostly succeed. However, the inherit problem with magic movies (especially now) is that you know how they're pulling off the trick. A real magic show is harder to figure out than a movie. You can't really ask "how did they do that" when Isla Fisher is seen flying in a bubble, because that bubble is more than likely CGi. That's not necessarily a fault with this movie though, as it still manages to entertain with its chases and fights.
The biggest problem for this reviewer, and likely for most people who see the film, will be the final reveal at the end. Without spoiling anything, it's one of those "everything you know is a lie" endings. It seems appropriate for a film about magic to deceive and manipulate its audience, but if that happens in a real magic show there's a science or some type of explanation behind it. There is no real magic and to provide a twist so out of left field hurts the entire film.
The worst part is that the twist isn't properly explained. You get a few brief establishing shots, a motive that you've already figured out when they say it and that's it. A good film would have set up the twist with hints and clues. Regardless of what you think of M. Night Shyamalan, there were clues everywhere for you to pick up on in The Sixth Sense. Now You See Me opts to tell its audience that this is the way things are and you should accept it.
It is a movie that wants to be smarter than its audence, but hopes that its audience is full of morons. It's almost an insulting way to end things, tricking the customers out of the price of admission.
The 411: Now You See Me is so concerned with misdirection tricking its audience that it fails to provide an adequate story for all of its twists and turns. It pretends to be smarter than your average summer film but instead collapses under the weight of its own convoluted story. If you can ignore that, then you may enjoy the "golly gee whiz" magic tricks enough for what they are. If not, then you'll probably just find it mediocre at best.