There was a very brief time in 2006 when magician films were the thing. Yes, The Prestige and The Illusionist were both historical films about magicians which brought in significant amounts of money, but not enough to keep the trend going. Now in 2013, we have yet another magician film, this time set in present day. Will it finally achieve the success those other films couldn’t? Or will magician movies all be visually stunning flashes in the pan?
Let’s take a look at Now You See Me.
Now You See Me is the story of four magicians, each of whom receive a special tarot card telling them to meet at a mysterious apartment, where a plan awaits them. A year later, they come out with a new magic act, calling themselves “The Four Horseman.” Their first act steals millions of dollars from a bank in France, so the FBI are soon on their trail. However, as their act suggests, the closer they attempt to investigate their acts, the easier the Horsemen can slip through their fingers. But to what purpose are all of these acts being done? Why don’t the Horseman keep all the money? And who is the mysterious hooded figure who brought them all together, and for what purpose? There are no spoilers to be had here, but I will say that the ending is mostly satisfying…mostly being the key word.
The acting is strong, mostly because of the star-studded cast. There are the acting veterans of Michael Caine as the rich mogul Arthur Tressler and Morgan Freeman as the magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley, both who amazing jobs in their roles. Mark Ruffalo as FBI agent Rhodes and Mélanie Laurent as French Interpol agent Vargas work well as a team, though their forced love towards the end ruined the dynamic of a great friendships. But the best acting of the film, in my humble Internet film critic opinion, are the Four Horsemen. Jesse Eisenberg and Isla Fisher have great chemistry as two ex-partners and possible lovers, and Woody Harrelson makes a fantastic mentalist. Dave Franco, surprisingly, comes off surprisingly strong as the slight-of-hand expert Jack Wilder, and is probably my favorite of the magicians of the group. These characters, sadly, don’t get a lot of character development which is a real shame because they are the most interesting. Oh well, at least they look good.
The film has amazing technical and special effects in order to bring the magic to the silver screen. I’m not sure how the effects would translate into real life, like the floating scarves, because it seems almost too CGI to be done practically. However, once the tricks are explained by Morgan Freeman’s character, a lot of them seem grandiose but actually are doable. I give the writers and designers credit for being able to create elaborate, fun tricks without making them too convoluted.
Additionally, there are a lot of fun, fast-paced chase scenes that don’t drag on unnecessarily no help to connect the narrative of the magicians to that of the FBI. One of the best confrontation scenes occurs between FBI agent Rhodes and Horseman Jack Wilder. The scene is amazingly choreographed, using magical tricks like flaming cards, and an ingenious move of trapping a jacket in a disposal drain. While I know the majority of the stunt work was done by trained professionals and not by the actors themselves, it’s still really impressive. Usually I am not really a big fan of the constant twists, but for a movie in which the entire premise is to deceive the audience, I found it was incredibly enjoyable. Each new twist was both somewhat expected and satisfyingly surprising. Usually a cinephile like me can more or less guess where a big blockbuster is going because, let’s be honest here, all the good twists have been used up by the innovative films. Still I was pleasantly surprised by the small tricks thrown in here and there to keep the plot interesting without being cheap or over dramatic.
That being said, I wasn’t all that impressed with the ending. It left too much open for my taste, especially what happens to the Four Horsemen. The issue with magician movies is that you either explain all of it, or leave it a complete mystery. Explaining some things, but leaving others, like an entire secret organization, completely unexplained only leaves more questions and confusion. What happens to the Horsemen after they join? Do they disappear? What do they do within the organization? How do they still exist? Not to mention, we know there’s a character who is not what they appear, but once their past and true identity are revealed, all the character development throughout the film is thrown out the window since it was just an act.
Now You See Me is a fun film which uses amazing special effects to dazzle and amaze the audience. It is a movie that will likely hold your attention the entire time, and you’ll be smiling too. Honestly, it’s a great movie to see with friends so long as you’re prepared not to nitpick on little issues and flaws, or looking for a deep plot. It’s a great summer blockbuster and I highly recommend you give it a watch.
– Great acting.
– Great special effects.
– Strong plot.
– Lackluster ending.
– Little character development for the magicians and dropping development for some characters.