REVIEW: Now You See Me
Now You See Me sounded like an interesting premise: a crime thriller where the perpetrators are magicians using a glitzy array of showmanship, misdirection, and illusion to throw off a […]
Now You See Me sounded like an interesting premise: a crime thriller where the perpetrators are magicians using a glitzy array of showmanship, misdirection, and illusion to throw off a dogged FBI while performing Robin-Hood style felonies. The movie also boasts a top end leading quartet of talent from Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, and Woody Harrelson as the “Four Horsemen” magic act; sponsored by Michael Caine as a bullying millionare, pursued relentlessly by FBI and Interpol agents portrayed by Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent, and all watched over by Morgan Freeman’s enigmatic magician-debunker Thaddeus Bradley.
It’s such a shame, then, that this superstar team-up of talent is given such a confusing plot to meander through while trying to project their acting abilities over the flashy sets and light shows. The fact that each of the four magicians – and Ruffalo’s agent Dylan Rhodes – could all qualify as main characters means no individual receives enough of a back story to be truly engaging. It’s hard to care about these people when most of their personalities are summed up through token introductory scenes or lazy exposition.
On a more upbeat note, the film is visually impressive. Swooping establishing shots and clever cinematography treat the audience to the lavish spectacle of high budget magic performances enrobed in glitzy light shows and unrestrained glamour. The opening Horseman show—which you may know from the trailers as the performance where they rob a bank—is sumptuously directed and probably the high point of the entire movie. Unfortunately this could easily be an allegory for the story: starting excellently and gradually losing itself in a progressively more convoluted plot with twists layered upon twists leading to a climax which will probably leave you scratching your head and questioning if any of what you’ve just seen makes sense. The events following the first show, with the magicians outwitting the FBI is joyful mischief; but once the movie starts asking you to pay close attention to ancient mythology, tangentially connected historical events, and the forced chemistry between Ruffalo and Laurent, it’s hard to stay excited.
A final criticism is that, while some of the magic acts themselves are presented beautifully and with convincing realism, the director fell into the trap of using poor quality CGI in some sections which jar horribly with the more practical effects. Would it be too much to ask to use real magic tricks in a film about same, rather than cheap graphics?
The lasting effect is liking being presented with a polished gold statue of Boris Johnson riding a walrus. Weirdly compelling, very shiny, total nonsense, and not something you’re likely to revisit.
All sparkle, no substance. Or should I say “all abra, no kadabra”?