Starring: Jesse Eisenberg (J. Daniel Atlas), Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt Osbourne), Melanie Laurent (Alma Vargas), Isla Fisher(Henley Reeves), Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), Michael Caine (Arthur Tressler) and Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley)
This is the first major film about magic since The Prestige and The Illusionist butted heads against each other in 2006. And it has a great cast.
Magic and illusion; thriller with a twist; revenge noir plot/counter-plot
Magicians J. Daniel Atlas, Merritt Osbourne, Henley Reeves and Jack Wilder are secretly given a Tarot card with a death symbol and an address on it. They all go to the New York City apartment written on the card, where they are rendered awestruck by an elaborate illusion.
A year passes. The quartet has become The Four Horsemen, the hottest new act in Las Vegas, bankrolled by the wealthy businessman Arthur Tressler. For Atlas, a magician on the rise, that’s not much of a surprise but for his former assistant Henley, street illusionist and pickpocket Wilder and hustler Osbourne, such success is unanticipated, to put it mildly. In front of a sold-out Las Vegas crowd, they pull off elaborate tricks that lead up to a spectacular set piece. Picking a man, apparently randomly, out of the crowd, they supposedly teleport him to a bank in France and bring him back with millions of stolen Euros, which are scattered to the ecstatic audience.
Of course, this trick gets the attention of the authorities, who send veteran and very cynical FBI man Dylan Rhodes and clever newbie Interpol French woman Alma Vargas to figure out how the Horsemen pulled off the trick and what they intend to do next. They’re joined (in a way) by Thaddeus Bradley, a man who delights in debunking magic and illusions.
As the Four Horsemen continued their magic tour towards New York, Rhodes and Vargas always are a step behind, figuring out how the quartet’s previous tricks had been created. But who had created the tricks? Surely it wasn’t the Horsemen? And for what reason?
In the tradition of thrillers and magic, one knows to expect the unexpected. Now You See Me offers several false endings—and perhaps a real one—before the final credits roll.
The performances and the creative team
A cast of seasoned character actors including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine and Jesse Eisenberg will always do well but a better script would have helped Isla Fisher and Melanie Laurent in particular. Woody Harrelson and Morgan Freeman do best in situations like this, when a director can’t control scene-stealing performances. While it’s fun to see so many talented actors in the film, the performers could have been memorable had the story and direction been more sympathetic and inventive.
Now You See Me starts off well but after the first spectacular robbery, it rapidly tails off. There’s very little character development and the magic tricks become less intriguing as the film progresses—or, should I say, deteriorates?