Now You See Me has proven to be one of the big, surprise success stories of the summer, with a current international gross of almost $300 million. I’d like to think this is because audiences might be getting a little fed up with the constant bombardment of franchise material, and just want to see something new for a change. Of course, Now You See Me’s success means it’s now getting a sequel. While the achievements of Now You See Me might be a little refreshing, the film itself is not really anything special.
Now You See Me sets itself up as a sort of Ocean’s Eleven type caper/heist film but with magicians. The team consists of a quartet known as ‘The Four Horsemen’. Four magicians with different skills, Jesse Eisenberg as a close-up street magician, Woody Harrelson as a mentalist, Isla Fischer as an escape artist, and Dave Franco as a former pickpocket. They’ve been brought together by a mysterious fifth party, whom they’ve never seen, to stage grand magic shows in which they actually rob banks.
Many a heist film might involve plenty of planning scenes with the actual heist not happening until the final act, Now You See Me opts for a different approach. After briefly introducing each character it cuts to a year later as they are performing their first big show/robbery. It’s a very impressive sequence which director Louis Leterrier shoots with a swooping camera that moves all around the giant arena without apparent cuts.
Like the best magic tricks, it amazes everyone, and leaves them wondering just how exactly they pulled off such an apparently impossible act. They find themselves pursued by an exasperated FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) and his French Interpol partner (Mélanie Laurent). In addition to them, Morgan Freeman plays an expert in debunking magic out to deduce their secrets.
As fun as Now You See Me is, after a while, it begins to suffer. The most remarkable act for the audience is certainly the first one, and while the film moves along at a good pace, cracks start to emerge in its grand design. The magic tricks displayed here, while fascinating at first, surely could never exist outside of a movie world.
It has a great cast to carry things along, but the film does have a few issues with who are the good guys. We are not really sure what exactly our central quartet’s motives are, besides putting on a good show. They appear to be being presented to us as the ‘heroes’ of the film, though they are all rather smug (fittingly so perhaps), but they’re also quite probably criminals, whereas neither the agents nor Morgan Freeman are. We want to see how their grand plan plays out, but at what cost? The ending is particularly troublesome in this regard.
Now You See Me is an engaging romp with a great concept that starts off very well, remains entertaining but becomes increasingly more ridiculous. Come the final twists, you’re more likely to be groaning than gasping.