I have always been intrigued and fascinated by the world of magic. With amazing sleight of hand, a magician is able to provide an audience with a series of tricks that leave them simply stunned. When it comes to talking about magic and illusion in movies, there have been a lot of misses with only a few hits. To succeed as a magic film, not only does it have to dazzle us with a lot of surprising moments but also give us characters with true issues we can really connect with. While it does not work as much when it comes to developing characters, Now You See Me does a very good job at being one of the year’s most entertaining movies. With an eclectic ensemble cast and a kinetic director, that should not be a surprise.
Now You See Me is directed by Louis Leterrier and stars an impressive ensemble cast featuring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Dave Franco, and Isla Fisher. The film is about a team of illusionists who decide to pull off a series of bank heists as part of their performances with the stolen money being the their audience’s reward. They are soon on the run with an FBI agent and Interpol detective determined to track them down. The motion picture is a crime-thriller that runs for around one hour and fifty-five minutes.
Starting with the acting ensemble, there is much to like here. Jesse Eisenberg, who I found to be absolutely brilliant in both Zombieland (2009) and The Social Network (2010), plays J. Daniel Atlas, the confident and almost arrogant magician, pretty well. Woody Harrelson provides much of the film’s comedy through his character Merritt McKinney. It is another performance that I found entertaining. James Franco’s younger brother, Dave Franco, is the young and talented illusionist Jack Wilder. I have not seen him in another film before but I find him to be comfortable with his role and able to give it a lot of charisma. Rounding up the quartet of magicians is Isla Fisher who is Henley Reeves, an escape artist who is really the female Houdini of the group, only much prettier.
These four illusionists-turned-thieves are all being hunted down by Mark Ruffalo’s FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes. In Now You See Me, Ruffalo proves yet again why he is one of my favorite actors. He has this talent of totally absorbing his characters and fully immersing himself in the role. One of Hollywood’s finest and most under-appreciated actors.
There are also two notable performances in Now You See Me that are worth mentioning. Morgan Freeman plays Bradley, a man who has dedicated his life to revealing all the tricks magicians do. This puts him on a collision course with the four illusionists, with surprising twists and turns. Michael Caine, on the other hand, is Arthur Tressler, the caretaker and mentor of the four magicians. It is his money and wealth that has made them able to showcase their magic to audiences everywhere.
When it comes to reviewing the performances of such legends as Freeman and Caine, my job is really easy. They are as amazing as they have always been. I am in awe with their ability to give all their performances the right amount of attention and care. They are certainly two of the most phenomenal actors of our time.
I also like the film’s direction by Louis Leterrier. He packs a lot of style and ‘magic’ in his scenes that make most of the movie work well. Though I found Now You See Me’s script quite lacking in depth and emotion, Leterrier is nevertheless able to make the most out of that challenge. He keeps the viewers guessing throughout the picture, especially during the magic acts. This is another case of a director trying to use all his talents to divert attention from the sub-par screenplay. A decent and commendable effort by Leterrier.
I cannot help but feel that there is so much potential that Now You See Me could have unlocked. The end result is a movie that is enjoyable but unable to join the ranks of cinema’s greatest films. The acting and directing shoulder a lot of the responsibility of making this motion picture work, a tough task that is mostly accomplished. However, it is not enough to mask the limitations of the screenplay. If you are looking for a movie that is profound and strong in a way that will change how you look at yourself and life in general, then this is not the movie for you. But, if you are looking for a really fun time at the movies this summer, Now You See Me will greatly satisfy that need. Recommended.
MATM Rating: *** out of ****
1 hour and 55 minutes
Crime / Thriller