Now You See Me may have captured the imagination of a select segment of its intended audience but, in truth, it is a missed opportunity of a movie that substitutes genuinely magical tricks for exorbitant visual effects.
Now You See Me follows FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and a French Interpol agent as they track and attempt to capture four illusionists who rob banks and reward their audiences with money during their performances.
Direction – D+
Louis Leterrier directs Now You See Me and it is signature direction for the man behind films such as Transporter and Clash of the Titans. Leterrier isn’t a bad director, he just isn’t a particularly good one. The alarm bells start ringing about 5 minutes into Now You See Me; after a promising first magic act that raised hopes of a smaller film showcasing genuine magic tricks that actually work, Leterrier turns to increasingly rapid cuts and edits that bombard the cortex and completely pull the audience out of the lingering illusion, instead aiming for action rather than tension.
Leterrier then ditches any notion of making a genuine movie about illusion after the first segment, instead opting to go bigger but not necessarily better. Some of the ‘magic’ is never explained and genuinely lead one to believe that half of what we see on screen isn’t an illusion but something scrapped from a J.K. Rowling novel. And that is the biggest problem with Now You See Me – it begins with the promise of something smaller, something intimate and something genuinely enjoyable in a surprising way but before long it develops into a generic summer fare.
Story – C-
When you look at the writing credits in Now You See Me, you’ll find two very differing names. The first is Ed Solomon. Solomon has writing credits for films like Men in Black, Bill and Ted and Charlie’s Angels. It is abundantly clear that Solomon brings with him the highlight of the film – the leads’ chemistry but we’ll get to that later – whilst his writing partner, Boaz Yakin, brings his own strand of storytelling. Yakin has written such beautifies as Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher and Prince of Persia so … yeah.
Now You See Me is wants to surprise us with its twisty and labyrinthine narrative but it tries to do too much with its characters and its world that it falls like a house of cards. One moment it is a cringeworthy and completely unnecessary romantic movie and the next it is a National Treasure-level so-bad-its-good brainless entertainment piece.
One cannot talk about the story of this film without truly spoiling the final twist in Now You See Me but I will not do that here. Just know that when the final twist drops, in a moment that attempts to recreate that haunting Usual Suspects moment, every plot hole, every coincidence and every scene will come rushing back to you for two reasons: one, we suspected it all along and two, the film ended up here simply by chance.
Acting – C+
And despite being, as mentioned, a wholeheartedly missed opportunity, the biggest facet of Now You See Me and what actually saves the film from being completely forgettable is the cast. Whilst the casting of Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman constantly reminds us of Chris Nolan and The Prestige, a far superior film dealing with a similar subject, the Four Horsemen work really well.
Woody Harrelson essentially plays that Woody Harrelson character once again, managing to float along the line of creepy, hilarious and magnetically arrogant in each and every scene. Jesse Eisenberg is actually pretty fun in the film but doesn’t really get all that much to work with. Isla Fisher is perfectly passable as the third horseman and has great chemistry with Harrelson. Dave Franco gets the least to work with but exudes that naïve and giddy personality really well. But the team works best when they are quipping and dissing each other and those moments and scenes are genuinely enjoyable.
Personally, Now You See Me will go down as a pale imitation of other better and smarter films focused on the magical world. It prioritises visual effects, cool visuals and action over intriguing visuals, intimate settings and tension and is ultimately a missed opportunity.