Now You See Me Review

The Plot:

The FBI and Interpol are left baffled when a team of magicians known as the Four Horsemen seemingly rob a bank in France during their Las Vegas magic show and give the money away to their delighted audience. It soon becomes clear that it’s only the start of an elaborate wider plan with mysterious motive, but the Horseman will have to evade a dogged FBI agent and infamous Magical expert if they’re to perform their best trick yet.

The Good:

The initial premise of Now You See Me is vaguely original and conveniently catches hold of the recent popularity surge for magicians. The film ambitiously aims to combine the fun of an Ocean’s 11 heist with the mind-boggling magical drama of The Prestige. It succeeds just enough on both fronts to be consistently watchable and occasionally captivating.

The film’s cast includes Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine, Isla Fisher and Woody Harrelson. It a fortunate collection of new/old talents that explains much of the film’s recent box office success and instantly elevates the material. Morgan Freeman’s gravel voiced gravitas and Mark Ruffalo’s perpetual weariness lend the film some valuable credibility.

Director Louis Leterrier does a competent job of giving the film’s action a glossy style. It’ a polished look borrowed from the heist genre that fits in neatly with the elaborate world of professional illusionists. A perpetually free moving camera in particular helps give the film a sense of momentum and gives at least the impression of clever intricacy.

The Bad:

After a promising start it’s a little disappointing that the film’s a-list ensemble don’t get too many chances to dip beneath the surface. It’s a great cast, but it’s still typecast.

The conscious decision to avoid giving the Four Horseman ‘too much personality’, leaves them a little more two dimensional than mysterious or awe inspiring. Jesse Eisenberg talks very fast, Woody Harrelson is lazily sardonic and Dave Franco… still isn’t James Franco.

It’s a little ironic that a film about deceptive showmanship promises so much but ultimately delivers dissatisfying anti-climaxes. Perhaps part of the problem is that in a world of CGI and special effects trickery, ordinary sleight of hand and implausible plot twists don’t dazzle audiences quite so easily.

The Ugly Truth:

Now You See Me isn’t ever quite as clever or brilliant as its runaway box-office success might imply.  Perhaps the film’s best trick has been using a stellar cast to convince eager audiences that it’s “must see” magnificence. However, it remains a watchable addition to the heist genre that will particularly entertain anyone with a fondness for David Copperfield style theatrics.

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