UK Release Date: 3rd July 2013
Runtime: 115 minutes
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
Synopsis: Four magicians are brought together by a mysterious benefactor to carry out a series of remarkable, and very criminal, tricks.
If ever a film could be sold on the basis of a good trailer, Now You See Me is that film. The glitzy, enigmatic promos for the film hinted at a complex, twisty thriller that would be by far the best film about magic this year. That was the case, but the film turned a strong first act into an overwrought, albeit fun, mess.
A disparate group of top magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco) are brought together by an unseen benefactor to execute some huge magic tricks, beginning with an audacious bank robbery. Tough cop Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is a complete magic sceptic and enlists online debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) to help crack the case.
Now You See Me kicks off with a flourish. An opening card trick benefits from a bit of editing hocus pocus to ensure it works on the audience and the group of tricksters are set up with some excellent brief segments. This all benefits from Louis Leterrier’s hyperkinetic style of direction, throwing the audience right into the midst of his slightly surreal world.
The performances are strong too, if a bit too comfortable for many of the performers. Jesse Eisenberg basically slots into a less interesting version of his character in The Social Network and Woody Harrelson does his usual prickly shtick.
For most of the film, Leterrier ensures that the film zips along at a frenetic pace. By the time something incredible has happened and been processed, it gets explained and the next improbable thing happens. This makes a lot of sense from a creative point of view given that Now You See Me is a film that certainly benefits from the audience not having time to question logic. It certainly keeps the film entertaining on a superficial level. It could’ve done with a bit more substance though.
Unfortunately, Now You See Me struggles in its latter stages. It goes from a compelling mystery to a CGI-led, noisy heist movie in its third act with all of the mystery swapped for car crashes. Then the climax introduces a plethora of silly rug pull moments, culminating in a final twist that is not only ridiculous, but completely borrowed from a couple of other recent thriller movies.
There is a good film in Now You See Me, but it’s a prime example of a film that has been designed by committee rather than creatives. It’s entertaining enough, but ties itself up in knots at the end – knots that even Isla Fisher’s escapologist would struggle to escape.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.