Home » Years » 2013 » Now You See Me •••

Now You See Me •••

Now_You_See_Me_PosterStarring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson
Director: Louis Leterrier
Screenplay: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt
Crime/Thriller, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 116 minutes


(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, now that we’ve seen Now You See Me, now is the time to review it.

It was a fun movie filled with surprises. I enjoyed myself.

Now You See Me begins with four street magicians eking out a meager existence. They are Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg), Henley (Isla Fisher), Jack (Dave Franco), and Merritt (Woody Harrelson). One day they are all summoned to an abandoned apartment by an unknown mastermind criminal hellbent on using their magic to pull off major heists. Calling themselves the Four Horsemen, they first appear to rob a French bank of millions of dollars during the middle of their Las Vegas act. When FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) cannot prove their guilt, the Four Horsemen are free to perform their next act in New Orleans, where they plunder the bank account of their main financial sponsor, Arthur Tessler (Michael Caine).

Scott, at first it appears that the heroes of this story are the four characters comprising the 4 Horsemen. But as the story evolves, it is clear that we are following Dylan and sidekick Alma in a classic buddy-cop movie with a twist. Veteran magician turned magic-debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) is following the Horsemen and warns Dylan that they will always be one step ahead of him.

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. What could have been a series of vaudevillian stage tricks turned awesome through the magic of CGI instead turned into a clever set of questions: How did they do it? What will they do next? Will they get caught? Who is the “Fifth” Horseman? I was kept guessing and it kept me involved from beginning to end.

I was less impressed by the movie than you were, Greg. The entire film is one giant magic trick whose secret is revealed at the very end in a very gimmicky way. Yes, the performances of all the actors involved were fine, but there is no discernible hero in this story. At first, we are led to believe that the four horsemen are the heroes, but they are soon revealed to be mere pawns of the true agents of power in the movie. In fact, virtually every character in this film turns out to be a magician’s prop or accessory. A likely candidate for the story’s hero does emerge but then disappears like a cheap trick. We’re left with a movie with a lot of sleights of hand but with a hand that is more than slightly empty.

Gee, Scott, I’d hate to see a magic show with you. I think the fact that all the tricks led to a surprising climax is what makes this a movie to see. There were a lot of well-known actors in this film. They all played their characters well. It’s tricky to have so much star power in one film and not have one character take the lead. Director Louis Leterrier did a great job of balancing the lead characters so that everyone had equal time.

As for the hero structure, Now You See Me plays a straight cop/chase/thriller until the very end. It is a great bit of misdirection that the suspicions jump from player to player before a final twist. And it is the breaking of the rules that makes this film entertaining. I have to admit that I was suspicious of who the mystery character could have been, but I didn’t put it all together before it was dished out for me in the final scenes. And that is what makes a great mystery great.

I think you’ve put your finger on a lot of the good qualities that this movie has, namely the performances of several iconic actors (e.g., Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine) and a series of magic tricks and crime scenes that leave us wondering, “How’d they do that?” I concede these points and I recommend Now You See Me to people who are infatuated with magic shows.

But when I see a movie, I want to witness a story that has depth beyond a mere gimmicky ending, which I believe this movie disappointingly delivers to us. The movie fails as a mystery because there were absolutely no clues for us to figure out The Big Reveal at the end. The film is basically a two-hour long magic trick, and while it’s not a bad magic trick, I found myself wanting more.

Fair enough, Scott. I went into the movie expecting a two-hour long magic show and I wasn’t disappointed. I’ll grant you that you won’t see a particular character have overcome a major internal flaw (or do you?). But when I go to see a magic show, part of the fun is trying to pit my intelligence against that of the magician. I try to see if I can figure it out and overcome the deception. I got that feeling while watching Now You See Me.

Penn & Teller used to do a show where they would take a well-known magician’s trick and expose it for all to see. The viewers were given all the gory details of how the trick was prepared for and then executed. Then, they would perform that trick live in front of a studio audience. What was amazing was that even after knowing how the trick was done, the audience was still in awe because the performance of the trick was so expertly performed that you were still amazed. That is what Now You See Me brought to the screen for me.

So, for an entertaining show that didn’t disappoint both in story, execution and magic, I give Now You See Me 4 out of 5 Reels. And for an atypical but still enjoyable hero story following FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes through the maze, I give it 3 out of 5 Heroes.

Movie: reel-4 Heroes: superman-3

Greg, I completely agree that there’s something powerful about watching a live magic show. Notice I said ‘live’. Watching magic tricks performed in the movies, where CGI effects rule, is not nearly as interesting. I recommend Now You See Me for diehard fans of magic and for fans of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson, and the other fine actors here. The movie itself is a thin slice of white bread. I give it 2 Reels out of 5.

As for the hero of the story…. there wasn’t one. Yes, there were characters in this movie but no ‘reel’ heroes who underwent a journey or who changed in any significant way. I can almost buy the argument that there was one character who approximated a hero, but by the film’s conclusion this character, as we knew him or her, magically disappears. For that reason, I’m giving this movie only 2 Heroes out of 5.

Movie: reel-2 Heroes: superman-2

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