Film Review: “Now You See Me”

Photo courtesy of Pixabay user geralt.

When I rented the movie “Now You See Me,” I wasn’t expecting anything different than the usual Hollywood movie; I remembered some one-dimensional commercials for it and was curious if it would have much plot. “Now You See Me” is about a team of four magicians that work together to perform elaborate robberies, all the while convincing the public that these heists are only magic tricks and illusions. The movie starts off introducing you to each of the four magicians and the type of tricks each one is known for: Merritt (Woody Harrelson) is a mentalist and hypnotist, J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is known for card tricks and sleight of hand, Henley (Isla Fisher) is an escape artist, and Jack (Dave Franco) is a pick-pocket with quick reflexes. The four magicians are drawn together when each of them is left a different tarot card with their name and an address written on the cryptic card.

When the four puzzled magicians go to the address mentioned, a series of booby traps sets off a hologram projection of the blueprint of a building, but the mysterious person that brought the four together never makes a personal appearance. Then, without any further explanation, the movie cuts to their famous Las Vegas stage act one year later, which involves the four magicians, now known as The Four Horsemen, convincing the public that they are currently robbing a bank in Paris with the help of a “teleportation device.”

As The Four Horsemen’s thievery-ridden magic performances continue, the audience meets two new characters: the police officers in charge of catching The Four Horsemen, Agent Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), a temperamental impulsive man, and Agent Dray (Mélanie Laurent), a French woman who thinks outside the box. The two agents together seem like the typical TV show cops – two opposite personalities that succeed the most when they work together. It was also obvious that these two would have some kind of clichéd love connection, which I was not interested in. Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) comes into the picture as a TV personality who makes his livelihood debunking magicians and explaining their tricks. The police department contacts Bradley with hopes that he will assist them with the case, but he prefers to work independently. At this point in the movie, I would have liked to have seen another flashback to explain more about the magicians’ pasts and the dynamic of the group.

Detectives Rhodes and Dray are constantly in a competition with the Four Horsemen; the police department struggles to gain the strategic advantage, while the Horsemen consistently make fools of the officers by misleading them. Throughout this buildup, the plot seems to dull and it just becomes a tug-of-war as to who will ultimately win. The viewers are saved, however, from boredom because of all the twists and turns. The director makes sure that every time the audience starts to theorize and draw conclusions as to which character might have alternate motives, there is a new piece of information revealed. Thaddeus Bradley adds to the mystery of the movie because he seems to have insights on the case, yet he is independent of the performers and the police.

Parts of the movie were somewhat clichéd, like the dynamic between the two police officers, and how often the police department was fooled. However, the movie stayed entertaining due to the common theme: misdirection. Several times, The Horsemen told their audience that the tricks succeeded because everyone watched too closely and missed the big picture; yet, the filmmaker purposefully follows the same strategy to keep the viewer interested. Another aspect of the movie that made it stand out was the magic tricks themselves. The tricks were not something that could be seen in real life, and were visually appealing because they were on such a grand scale, but the entertainment factor still did not cover the bumpy storyline. If it had not been for the illusions and plot twists, I would have fallen asleep during the movie. I also enjoyed the acting, but there were a number of questions that were left unanswered, not because the director purposefully created mystery, like in the movie “Inception,” but because the plot was not cohesive enough.

My opinion of “Now You See Me” is that it is a decent movie to see on a Friday night to kill a couple of hours and while better than I originally expected from the commercials, I definitely would not say it stood out or made a lasting impression. Overall, I would rate the movie two and three-quarter out of five stars. To those of you that enjoy action, entertainment, and surprise endings, you will want to see this movie. If you are a critical person, however, looking for a movie with substance and a thorough story, look elsewhere.