‘Now You See Me’ Movie Review – Sly Misdirection
[Note: You can watch our alternative video review here]
There are parts of Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me that are wholly unique and cool. It’s so cool that it’s hard to hate the movie. However, there is a lot of room between love and hate. As a caper film, it succeeds on some levels (something I’ll go into more in a bit). However, as a functional story, it uses the same misdirection tricks to hide what’s really wrong with the film.
Four magicians, who call themselves “The Four Horsemen,” are summoned together by an unknown entity. They all contribute a unique skill to the group – Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) being the charismatic showman, Merritt (Woody Harrelson) being the mentalist, Henley (Isla Fisher) being the pretty one, and Jack (Dave Franco) being the sleight-of-hand specialist. When they join up, they plan an insanely unique magic trick…
In front of a packed Las Vegas crowd, they’re going to rob a bank and split the money with the audience Robin Hood-style.
Of course, when they succeed (not a spoiler I promise), it immediately grabs the attention of the authorities. Being real money, it becomes a real crime. Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent (the first crime takes place at a French bank) Alma (Melanie Laurent) start to track the Horsemen with the help of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), an ex-magician that makes a living exposing illusions.
It sounds confusing because the story is complicated. How on Earth can they truly rob a bank as an illusion? The story isn’t centered around real magic; therefore, it’s a complicated (and sometimes clunky) process trying to explain just how this could happen. Like all magic tricks, it’s about misdirection.
If nothing else, Now You See Me masters the misdirection component. Their use of misdirection is the greatest use of it all because the story becomes so elaborate (and more and more far-fetched) that it needs to distract the audience. You wouldn’t be wrong to simply roll your eyes at some of the tricks and theatrics the Horseman use; however, you probably won’t because it is so thrilling.
The idea of “the closer you look, the less you see,” amazingly works in a way that surprised me the most. There are plenty of lines similar to that quote, and the movie all but dares you to figure out the ending before they show you. My guess is that most will be surprised (if not shocked) by the conclusion.
There are other reasons the film works, too. Not only is it thoroughly entertaining, because of the scope, but it’s highly engaging and very sly. Even though this is more of a heist film than anything else, most people like magic (or illusions) and like to be tricked. They’ll respond well to this movie.
With that being said, there are problematic parts to the overall film. I’ve touched on the problems within the plot and really can’t go into the specific inconsistencies without debunking the film and giving away the entire plot. Quickly, the main love story that emerges seems like it was tacked on at the very end. I’d also like to mention that the camera work is pretty atrocious – I still feel seasick from the constant camera panning.
Now You See Me is an interesting film, and you unfortunately can’t say that about all new releases. The story, written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Riccourt and directed by Louis Leterrier, is highly engaging and fun in a confusing way. However, the best fictional magician of our time, Arrested Development’s Gob Bluth, once said “tricks are what whores do for money.” If this is true, it says a lot about the audience and the film because Now You See Me is full of tricks and misdirection that do a whole lot to mask what’s really going on. What’s really going on is where the true problems exist.
Now You See Me is open in wide release, check it out if you get a chance.
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