Twitter Plot Summary: A group of magicians known as the Four Horsemen pull off 3 heists whilst being chased by Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent.
Director: Louis Leterrier
Key Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Michael Kelly.
Five Point Summary:
1. Good start, then various plot threads are unceremoniously dropped. Ho hum.
2. Look – angry Michael Caine!
3. These magic tricks are getting increasingly silly…
4. Hey, you’re not Gambit! Stop throwing cards!
5. Oh, that’s just a silly way to end it.
I’ve recently signed up for a Cineworld Unlimited card as I was starting to spend a huge amount on cinema trips and needed to find a way to reduce my outgoings without losing out on seeing new films. It’s now cheaper for me to visit the cinema near work (35-40 mins drive away), on a day off no less, than to visit the local cinema that’s 5 minutes away. Go figure. Anyway, to the point I was making – as part of the unlimited card is the opportunity to attend advance screenings of certain films and, in this instance, a secret screening. There were a few clues released beforehand about what film it might be, but I didn’t really care all that much, it was an opportunity to see a film a few weeks before general release. As it turns out it was Now You See Me, which thankfully had been on my “films to watch” list, and if I’d have been on the ball I could have uploaded a review on or before release date. As you can tell, I dropped the ball with that one. My bad.
Now You See Me sees a group of four magicians with different illusion-related skills join forces, at the behest of a mysterious benefactor, to pull off three heists and steal a shedload of money and become eligible to join an elite inner circle of magicians. Or you know, something along those lines. On their tails are FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Laurent), supported in a sense by Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman) who is clearly so knowledgeable about magic tricks that he could probably solve the case himself if he cared enough about it. Sadly his smugness gets in the way of him making any meaningful contribution.
The film’s had an extended run in the UK top 10 since release, and I think it’s only just dropped out. The reason behind this film lasting so long in the top 10 (probably) is because it’s not a sequel, it’s not a Western (sorry, Lone Ranger) and it’s something a little bit different to all the other mainstream films that have come out so far this year. That’s not to say it’s amazing though, not by a long stretch. Escapism yes, entertaining too, but a classic it is not.
The cast is rather spectacular – there are the big hitters in the form of Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, but they’re more peripheral characters. The film’s carried by an entertaining performance from Mark Ruffalo and his interactions with Melanie Laurent. It’s a will-they-won’t they kind of thing that starts with initial dislike and grows to respect – the usual spiel. The Four Horsemen are represented by Jesse Eisenberg (channelling his Mark Zuckerberg performance from The Social Network), Woody Harrelson (a barrel of laughs), Isla Fisher (underutilised) and Dave Franco (passable). We’re told very briefly that Eisenberg and Fisher’s characters were once romantically engaged, but this is then totally ignored for the remainder of the film. There’s no point dropping that little bit of information into the story if you’re not going to use it later on. Scriptwriting 101, peeps!
Morgan Freeman is the idiot board for the audience – after most of the tricks in the film he comes along to debunk and explain it. I’m not overly sure we really needed him in there, it seems like his character is only there to explain things to the audience without explaining things to them directly. It’s a film about magic, we don’t need every little detail explaining. And while we’re discussing the legends, Michael Caine doesn’t have much to do at all, just spend a bit of time looking angry. Leterrier’s direction is solid on the whole, but he’s not particularly good with action scenes. It’s one of those catch-22 situations where they could have hired an action-oriented director and had 85% of the film fall flat on its face rather than the 15% that isn’t quite up to scratch.
It’s not really a spoiler to say that the ending ruins it. The story was on the silly side but it was at least moderately logical within its own world. That’s all ruined when the scriptwriters clearly decided that they wanted to make a film that crosses The Usual Suspects with The Prestige, and those are two far better films. Some good effects and occasional glints of clever storytelling can’t hide the fact that it’s actually a very run of the mill story and not quite the film you might have expected to see based on the trailer.
Favourite scene: The police interview room montage – Eisenberg being unpleasant, Harrelson cold-reading the police interviewing him = class.
Quote: “First rule of magic: always be the smartest person in the room.”
Silly Moment: The ending. It wasn’t doing too badly until that point. It doesn’t really make any sense.