Starring: Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Woody Harrelson (Zombieland), Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers), Dave Franco (Warm Bodies), Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds), Morgan Freeman (Oblivion), Michael Caine (The Dark Knight)
Director: Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk)
Writers: Ed Solomon (Men in Black) and Boaz Yakin (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) & Edward Ricourt
Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes
Release Date: 31 May (US), 3 July (UK)
Movies about magicians are pretty popular these days, such as The Prestige and The Illusionist. I guess we are all just fascinated with looking behind an art that is shrouded in mystery. Does Now You See Me bring any new tricks to the table, or is it old hat?
What Now You See Me does best, like any good magician, is keep you interested and on your toes. Considering the subject matter, the conclusion of the film could be absolutely anything. You’ll certainly have to suspend your disbelief, even when they’re explaining the “logical” explanations for everything, but the solutions are often so ingeniously ridiculous that you can’t possibly predict them. While this create a good amount of tension and suspense, helped by good pacing and witty dialogue, I found the final reveal a little lacking and somewhat confusing. I didn’t see it coming, but it almost came out of nowhere and I hoped it would find a more fulfilling or at least bizarre conclusion. The film also suffers from an unclear protagonist: am I supposed to be rooting for the magicians or the FBI? Considering their motivations and their likeable banter, you’d think we’d want to root for the magicians but the film doesn’t spend enough time with them. I guess this is because the FBI are the audience perspective in that they know as much as we do and following the magicians would reveal too much, but it’s hard to root for people we don’t know that much about.
The film boasts an impressive cast, but it is so star-studded that several of them feel underused. Ruffalo and Laurent get the most focus, but they’re the least interesting characters in the entire movie. Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher and Franco work well together, but as I said before you don’t get nearly enough time with them. Freeman seems to be having fun, but Caine doesn’t get much to do and is just there to serve the plot. Smaller but recognisable actors Michael Kelly and Common play fellow FBI agents, but their parts are so small you wonder why they even bothered cast names.
Louis Leterrier is known for his dynamic approach to camerawork, and that shines through here. The camera is constantly moving, even during simple scenes, and if it isn’t moving it’s probably on a crane or a helicopter. The film is as flashy as a magic show, with bright lighting, music and visual effects. The few action scenes in the film are handled well (bar some odd editing decisions), especially a fight between Ruffalo and Franco that feels like if Jason Bourne suddenly wielded the power of Dr Strange.
Now You See Me is fun but flawed summer fluff. There are certainly moments of greatness here, but the execution falters too many times. Despite my many issues, I did have a good time watching the film and was going to give it a higher rating, but that ending just sandbagged it for me. If you were sold on the trailers for the movie, you’ll probably have a good time. But if you’re a nitpicker, you’re going to have a field day with this one.
FINAL VERDICT: 7/10