Director: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
Magicians turned criminals, really? Magicians and film is such a hit and miss combination anyway. Some TV magicians are undisputedly amazing, and Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Prestige’ was a fantastic film. The key to the success of that particular magical movie was that the magic didn’t take centre stage – the characters did. Despite a pretty impressive cast, I had low expectations for ‘Now You See Me’ and after hearing mixed reviews, I wasn’t exactly beside myself with excitement. But the DVD had found its way onto my to-watch pile and had been sat there for a few weeks, so I had to bite the bullet and get it watched. I wish I had underestimated it, but the film delivered exactly what I feared.
In terms of a plot summary, I can either go big on the details or keep it brief. I think less is more here. So, four magicians at the top of their game are invited to work for a mystical force called ‘The Eye’, an illuminati-esque, all seeing, all powerful circle of trust. Pulling off big money heists and double-crossing just about everyone along the way, whilst being hunted by FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), the quartet endeavour to find out who is behind their missions and discover the secrets of ‘The Eye’.
The leader of the group of magicians Daniel Atlas, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is an unusually cocky, little, nerdy character. I just feel like I wouldn’t get along with the guy; he’s so sarcastic and condescending and undeservingly smug. The problem is, I can’t work out if that’s how the character is intended to be, or if that is just Eisenberg’s own personality shining through. Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco complete the gang, and all of them are rather non-descript to put it nicely. Old masters Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman offer pretty good performances, particularly the latter, who carries that familiar air of wisdom and likeability. But the stand out star is Mark Ruffalo, giving life to a clever, interesting character who, along with Melanie Laurent, really ties the whole film together. I have no doubt that the film would be a lot worse was it not for these two.
The concept of it all is just a bit too farfetched and absurd at times. I get that introducing the idea of magic – and indeed the powers of a higher force – allows a certain level of creative freedom and removes any restrictions in terms of what is possible. But the fantastical elements here were just too much and I very quickly developed a scepticism and disinterest in the ludicrous happenings. Admittedly, friends who had seen the film before promised me there were some pretty good twists, and they were right, particularly with the final hurrah. The magical basis of the film also permitted an array of interesting visuals, as well as a touch of humour and theatricality.
It’s a spectacle, for sure. And those twists do make the experience worthwhile, even if you do have to wait until the very end. Whilst the film was frustratingly slow in places – I found myself wishing the whole thing would do a disappearing act at times – ‘Now You See Me’ is worth a watch. But I wouldn’t panic too much if you don’t. The tease of “now you see me, now you don’t” has never been less mysterious and enigmatic, because quite frankly, I’d be happy to never see this very average film again, especially now those valuable twists are redundant.