There’s nothing quite like a good heist movie, and if you can throw in a bit of sleigh-of-hand all the better. As a film, Now You See Me seems to know it’s not supposed to be much more than a good time, and on that count it delivers. And it raises a perfectly valid question: Why aren’t more professional magicians bank robbers?
- Director: Louis Leterrier
- Writers: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt
- Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
- Cinematography: Mitchell Amundsen and Larry Fong
Four struggling but talented street magicians (Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher and Franco) — each with a different specialty — are brought together under mysterious circumstances. A year later, they’re wowing a sell-out Vegas crowd by seemingly teleporting an audience member into a bank vault in Paris and stealing the Euros inside, making them rain down on the crowd. The self-proclaimed Four Horsemen attract the attention of an FBI agent (Ruffalo), an Interpol operative (Laurent) and a professional magic debunker (Freeman) as they attempt to pull off two more mind-bending, Robin Hood-esque illusions.
- Casting is everything: Whoever pulled this ensemble together is the real star of Now You See Me. The Four Horsemen alone take what could’ve been bad CW drama-level characters and make them imminently watchable. Eisenberg in particular channels his usual fast-talking neurosis into a new breed of con man. A little hair-straightening goes a long way, apparently. But the real coup is having the exposition-heavy investigation scenes handled by the fantastic Ruffalo and Laurent. Dare we say, they’re all almost too good for this material. But everyone is clearly having a blast.
- Misdirection: Any good caper succeeds when the audience thinks they’re two steps ahead, and it’s even better when they can convincingly pull one over on you. Now You See Me lays out plenty of clues — and even more red herrings — to keep you engaged throughout. We’re not talking about serious entertainment here, but they do reward close attention.
- All the right moves: The camera work by Amundsen and Fong is key to Now You See Me‘s enjoyability factor, with spirally Steadicam work, ingenious swoops trough key holes and clever reveals. The camera nearly never stops moving, adding a sense of energy and fun to the film. The filmmakers know you’re trying to keep an eye on everything, and they clearly delight in confounding you.
- Breaking from reality: There’s a lot of fun slight-of-hand in Now You See Me, with smirk-inducing insights into how the tricks are pulled off. It’s a shame, though, when during the Four Horsemen’s show the filmmakers feel the need to resort to obvious CGI-enabled tricks that can’t actually be done in reality. Whether its Fisher summoning massive, twisting ribbons of silk that would be better suited in a Clash of the Titans film or Eisenberg sending Fisher sailing in giant soap bubbles over the audience, the breaks from reality stand out. For lack of a better term, it spoils the illusion.
- Not sticking the landing: Everything was going so well, even through the series of big reveals that points out exactly how wrong you were about who the mysterious Fifth Horseman is, but then they just about blow it. First, the magical scoundrels we’ve been following the entire film are given a less-than-satisfying finale, and then the film tacks on a final scene — that we can’t go into detail about — that sinks like lead, full of a brand of artless exposition that the lithe and entertaining film had avoided until that point.
Now You See Me has enough razzle-dazzle and infectious fun to keep you entertained, even if it drops the ball in its final moments.
Now You See Me opens May 31.