Since its early beginnings the cinema is regarded as an elaborate stage for magic tricks. In the days of silent cinema characters used to vanish in a puff of smoke (for example a Voyage to the Moon), obviously this was taken from magic shows performed on stage. Directors such as George Melies were seen as magicians and leading pioneers in practical effects in cinema’s early years. In today’s world magic tricks performed on screen have the ability to convince a viewer that a monster or dinosaur is really there as a magic trick is essentially an illusory feat. The monster isn’t really there, but digital trickery can convince us that it is.
Directed by Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans) Now You See Me is heavily based in the art of magic tricks, in fact the film actually starts off with a magic trick of its own. The trick itself is rather impressive and works because of the power of suggestion, the card displayed on the office building was the very card I picked from the deck and the very card the filmmakers wanted me to see. Anyway, moving on, four street magicians, Daniel Atlas, Henley Reeves, Jack Wilder, and Merritt McKinney (played by Jessie Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and Woody Harrelson respectively), are summoned to an apartment in New York where an elaborate plan is made involving a bank robbery (or a supposed bank robbery). This bank robbery stunt attracts the attention of the FBI who assign Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Frenchie Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) to the case.
One of the main questions I found myself asking was ‘whose side am I supposed to be on’? I asked this because I easily picked a side and hoped that Dylan Rhodes would capture the four horsemen. The Four horsemen, with egos on a staggering, deeply unlikeable and biblical scale, are a horrible, irksomely arrogant bunch. Most of all Daniel Atlas’ smugness and arrogance granted me considerably, but overall the whole group had such overly inflated egos that made it impossible to warm too them and their Robin Hood style quest which is done without a single ounce of modesty. They are all showmans and have the arrogance to match.
Resentment and hatred of the four horsemen aside, Now You See Me’s cat and mouse chase thriller is a rather entertaining one. Nevertheless I am reminded of a scene from Peep Show in which Jeremy claims Ocean’s 11 is a complicated film and Mark replies “it really isn’t”. Now You See Me isn’t as smart as it thinks it is for a number of reasons. Firstly, the main plan relies far too much on contrivances, coincidences and events that are beyond the control of the four Horsemen and the twist just does not work on repeated viewings let alone one viewing. However, it is an enjoyable film. Director Louis Leterrier has an eye of visuals and the film is easy on the eye as the film pelts along at the speed of light, hardly stopping to draw breath to consider how plausible anything is.
The film does travel at breakneck speed hardly ever slowing down as it zaps off at a speed incomprehensible by humans. The film is plauged by by two hugely tedious love stories between Dray and Rhodes and Daniel Atlas and Henley Reeves. These two problematic, vomited inducing, pus filled love stories are given so little time that they almost barely register and viewer wonders what the point of including them was. There are many flaws, but Now You See Me is enjoyable waffle.