Directed by: Louis Leterrier.
Written by: Ed Solomon and Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt.
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg (J. Daniel Atlas), Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt McKinney), Isla Fisher (Henley Reeves), Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), Mélanie Laurent (Alma Dray), Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley), Michael Caine (Arthur Tressler), Michael J. Kelly (Agent Fuller), Common (Evans).
You’d be hard pressed to find a better cast in a mainstream movie this year than the one assembled for Now You See Me. You have five Oscar nominees – two of them winners – and even the actors that haven’t been anointed by the Academy are excellent in their own way. The movie is about magicians, who are really thieves and con men, and really, really wants to be the most clever movie of the year. The fact that the cast is so good helps to hide the fact that the movie isn’t half as clever as it thinks it is. The movie wants to be Ocean’s 11, but doesn’t really come all that close. It’s amusing to watch this great cast have fun for a while, but as the movie drags on, I grew bored.
The movie opens by introducing us to four different magicians – the cocky asshole J. Daniel Atlas (Jessie Eisenberg) who is a master at sleight of hand and card tricks, Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) a “mentalist”, Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) – an escape artist, and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), a pickpocket (and yes, that’s apparently a magician). They are all brought together by some mysterious, hooded being – and a year later they’re performing together in Las Vegas. When they somehow seemingly manage to teleport a French man to his bank in Paris, and steal $3 million, they draw a lot of attention – including the FBI, who has Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) investigate, and Interpol, who sends Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) to work with Rhodes. There’s also Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who debunks magicians, an Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), the magician’s extremely rich financial backer. Everyone is being played – especially the audience.
The cast certainly has a lot of fun during the course of the movie – and even if some of the “magic” we see them perform is clearly CGI, there is still fun to be had being the audience as well. The actors play off each other well, even if for the most part these actors could do these roles in their sleep – although to their credit, none of them do. They may not really be pushing themselves, but they seem to enjoy playing off each other.
The movie is one of those heist movies that explains to the audience what they are going to see, and then shows what they just explained – although not quite the way we expect it to play out. If done well, these films can work amazingly well. It’s fun to be fooled by a movie. The problem with a movie like Now You See Me is that it tries so hard to fool the audience right from the start, that you never really trust the movie. We know from the start the movie isn’t going to play fair with the audience. It’s like when you go to a magic show, and spend the whole time looking for the strings holding up the “floating” magician. When you try as hard as this now does to try and fool the audience, you can almost guarantee that you won’t. I’m not saying I saw every twist in the movie coming – just most of them.
The film was directed by Louis Leterrier, who is best known for action movies like Unleashed, The Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans. Although there aren’t many action scenes in Now You See Me, Leterrier shoots the movie as if there were. The result is both somewhat exhausting, yet dull.