Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see…
That’s the tagline for Now You See Me, a tricksy and hugely enjoyable movie about that polished art of deception – magic. That includes us, the audience, who get a seemingly all-angle view of what’s going on and should be able to see what’s coming next. But therein lies the fun of the film – it keeps you guessing as it thunders along at a breakneck pace. Plot holes may appear if you stop and think about it but it hardly matters when it’s so entertaining along the way.
The plot centres on four street magicians who, a year after being brought together by a mysterious fifth party, are now the slickest and most talked about magicians in Las Vegas, now going by the stage name of the Four Horsemen. When they pull off a daring trick of robbing a bank in Paris while on stage in Vegas, the FBI and Interpol get involved. The investigation is headed by Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) who is frustrated by a team of magicians always managing to evade him.
The obvious comparison to make here is to Christopher Nolan’s complex, almost labyrinthine The Prestige, which took magic seriously and tackled it intelligently to make for a film that will live on in repeat viewings. Now You See Me doesn’t quite have that quality as it could readily be described as Diet Prestige meets Ocean’s Eleven but that’s absolutely fine. As a piece of slick blockbuster entertainment it ticks the right boxes.
It sometimes forgets it magical roots, delving into more generic blockbsuter territory with car and footchases (although they are very well done in their own right), but it works best when director Louis Leterrier – whose previous directorial credits include Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans – creatively shows the specific tricks that the magicians have up their sleeves. Who doesn’t love a good magic trick, to quote Morgan Freeman’s character? If you don’t then the movie probably isn’t for you. But for anyone even mildly interest in the showy art form then there’s plenty here to engage for a couple of hours. It often relies on CGI when perhaps practical effects might have been more interesting but they serve a purpose when some of the more elaborate illusions are on the menu.
Apart from the magic there’s loads of fun to be had in watching a great cast do their thing. While it lacks a certain amount of character development because of how many it has to deal with, the likes of Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Ruffalo are just great to be around. You’ll be second-guessing throughout as to who is really in cahoots with whom and if people are who they really say they are but that’s part of the joy of it.
Much the same as an actual magic trick in which the trick itself is far more interesting than the explanation, the film is let down by its silly and far too neat ending. It goes one trick too far with a reveal that’s frustrating and cheap when the rest of the movie has been so clever, witty and enjoyable. But for the most part it’s a good time filled with lots of twists and turns, fun characters and cool visual tricks. It may be all surface but that surface is shiny, slick and most importantly entertaining.
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