Now You See Me: Who Doesn’t Like A Good Trick?

There seems to be a bit of a trend with movies about stage magicians about how clever illusionists using their talents in questionable ways can bring them into conflict with the law and other magicians. I’ve always personally enjoyed these kinds of movies, as magic tricks allow for some spectacular visuals while the battle of wits going on behind the illusions can make for some enjoyably twisty plots. Now You See Me is just such a movie, combining some very cool magician’s tricks with an excellent heist/mystery story for an experience that can really force you to sit up and pay attention.

Now You See Me begins with four solo-act street magicians, J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), who are gathered together in a strange apartment by an unknown benefactor and invited into a strange plan; one year later, the four magicians have become The Four Horsemen, a rapidly rising high-budget magic act that attracts FBI attention when one of their big finales involves making 3 million euros disappear from a French Bank. The majority of the movie revolves around Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) with his temporary partner from Interpol Alma Drey (Melanie Laurent) attempting to get to the bottom of the Four Horsemen’s increasingly audacious tricks and robberies while the Horsemen seem to remain constantly a step ahead of the law, with both sides attracting the attention of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) a mysterious former magician who now makes his living exposing the tricks of others and has a unique insight into how the Horsemen are pulling off theirs. The plot is extremely enjoyable to follow, tipping its hand sometimes but attempting regularly to mix a lot of genuine foreshadowing (virtually nothing mentioned in the movie’s entire runtime isn’t brought up again later in some way) with an equally large amount of misdirection and red herrings to try and keep you looking at the wrong thing. You know there’s going to be a twist, and the movie knows you know; it contrives instead to keep you guessing what that final twist is going to be, and the twists and turns getting there makes for some great entertainment if you’re paying attention.

Aside from its impressive magic tricks making for good visuals, I feel that Now You See Me’s greatest strength lies in its characters and some really good acting all around to bolster its enjoyable plot. Jesse Eisenberg owns his typecast role as the highly intelligent and justifiably smug and sarcastic guy, and his flippant dismissal of the pressure the law tries to put on him is delivered with more flair and charm than he had in The Social Network. His three companions also play their parts excellently and have a nice group dynamic going; I didn’t really feel there was a weak performance in the entire main cast. The Horsemen’s opposition also give really strong performances, particularly Mark Ruffalo, who excellently sells the exasperation of a normal, practical man having to chase a group of tricksters, each and every one of them too clever by half. Morgan Freeman also delivers with his usual excellence, selling the impression he knows more than you and is enjoying it enormously even better than Eisenberg. Thanks to some good dialogue, just seeing these personalities bounce off of one another is just as entertaining as the tricks, chases, and visuals that the movie presents.

If you’re a fan of magic and tricky mysteries, I recommend giving Now You See Me a look. It’s clever, it’s funny, it’s fun to look at, and some great performances and a good story for them to work in come together to make a movie that conspires to trick you even if you’re paying close attention, but will make you enjoy it even if you are fooled.

One Response to “Now You See Me: Who Doesn’t Like A Good Trick?”

  1. Eve Topalian says:

    Great review, as usual. I’m putting this one on my must-see list.

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