Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me revolves around a group of magicians who garner international attention with a bank robbery during one of their acts. The film melds together comedy and action with a tiny hint of mystery in what is a surprisingly fun to watch flick full of – yes – magic.
The Four Horsemen are a set of magicians who work the circuit, only moderately successful until they achieve fame through their group act as The Four Horsemen. Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is an arrogant street magician, his former assistant Henley (Isla Fisher) is a skilled escapist now performing on her own, Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) was once a popular mentalist and now makes his living hypnotizing cafe patrons, and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is a young and relatively inexperienced magician with a knack for sleight of hand. In broad strokes, the Four Horseman are looking to define themselves as magicians, which begins with their mysterious invitations to become exclusive members of the organization known as The Eye. To do so, they must complete a number of tasks which begins their foray into robbery.
It’s not the Horsemen who are the film’s leads but their antics are at the center. There’s very little characterization applied to the foursome after the film’s prologue where the focus is switched to the perpetually befuddled FBI, led by Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) alongside Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). It’s through them that we see the Four Horsemen as they perform their acts with us and the FBI in the dark about their methods and intentions. The final revelation that Dylan is the son of late magician Lionel Shrike and the fifth Horseman solidifies him as the true lead. It was a satisfying and genuinely surprising reveal, making my former irritation with the character and his incompetence melt away.
Now You See Me excels in its presentation of the magic it employs. Not only is it fun for the audience, it’s just as fun for the characters. It’s nice to watch a film in which magic isn’t treated as something silly and ridiculous but as a real source of entertainment and enjoyment for viewers and its performers. It’s not treated as something simplistic but a calculated and intelligent spectacle that draws on developments in science and technology to create a fantastic show.Though the magic isn’t real (though at times you wonder if it is), it’s always fun to see. Even the most arrogant of magicians can appreciate a great magic trick and take joy in seeing one come together so wonderfully, and part of the charm of Now You See Me is watching four very different people, and magicians, come together to create one amazing show.
Though there was so much done right in the film, the most disappointing was the romance between Alma and Dylan. Their relationship came off as more of a budding friendship than a romance, and the film didn’t seem to have the time to convincingly portray their attraction to one another. Both characters work well on their own (Dylan moreso after his identity is revealed), and Alma’s enjoyable in her optimism, thirst for knowledge and enjoyment of the magic she’s witnessing. She’s the character the audience can most identity with, as someone who is just as enamored with the magic as the logical explanation behind it. On the surface, Alma and Dylan make sense, but the progression of their relationship was tossed out the window with the revelation that Dylan was the fifth Horseman. All their struggles up to that point were because he didn’t think he could trust Alma, and the whole time Dylan was the one who couldn’t be trusted so what was the point?
Though Now You See Me has its share of the ridiculous (including the cartoonish reactions of the foiled villains) it doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t expect the audience to do so either. It manages to keep its story simple despite the potential for weighing it down with a convoluted plot and doesn’t fall into the trap of dumbing itself down. It’s a fun and entertaining caper flick with convincing action sequences (especially the fight sequence between Jack, Dylan and Fuller) and subtle, well-paced comedy.
There were a lot of threads left hanging (including Arthur Tessler’s vengeance and the possible survival of Lionel Shrike) but the promise of a sequel gives some indication that those things will be wrapped up.
Now You See Me is on DVD and Blu-Ray on September 3, and its sequel, which will see the return of director Leterrier, is expected to begin filming in 2014.