Film Review: Now You See Me

I had been interested in Now You See Me since I first saw it’s trailer and you can see from director Louis Leterrier’s filmography that his is a film maker prepared to take on big projects (he directed the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk as well as 2010’s panned Clash Of The Titans) but I think this might be one idea too far. Not because there is anything really wrong with the plot or premise behind the film, but rather it’s execution is just too far fetched for you to really buy into it.

I think everyone likes a magic trick, and of course we all then pretend to know all along how it was done, but I also think that magic and movies struggle to go together. Especially when you start to increase the scale and complexity of the trick. The reason for this, I believe, is that Hollywood already falsifies so much, that when you then involve magic, honest trickery, everything blends into a muddle and as a viewer you instantly become lost as to what is Hollywood fakery designed to enhance the story visually and what is on-screen magic designed to be part of the act.

Final Trick - Now You See Me

Now You See Me feels as though it doesn’t understand this problem as it gets big, and then bigger, as it goes on and rather than leave me blown away by what I was seeing, instead I simply wondered how exactly 4 people, on their own, where able to set all this up. In real life, the tricks they perform would need weeks of preparation and an army of supportive helpers to pull off and arrange, not a few hours notice and no outside assistance while playing a game of cat and mouse with the FBI.

This impossible grandiose made me withdraw from the film and lose the tension it wanted to build within me. I resigned myself to the fact it wasn’t true and couldn’t happen and so it lost some of the realism it needs to work. I essentially gave up on the magic.

With the plot falling apart, everything therefore, rides on the characters and the performances of the actors playing them. I hate to say it because I’ve been vocal in the past in my criticism of his performances but Jesse Eisenberg really looks the part in this film. He manages to blend his usual introverted geek with an extroverted arrogance that somehow creates a character that feels fraudulent enough but also smart enough to be capable to leading the show. I bought completely into his character and sided with him. I almost want to be his friend, even though part of me knows I’d never trust him if I was.

Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson & Dave Franco - Now You See Me

It’s not all good though because I found Woody Harrelson confusing. He has an air of almost constant drunkenness to him. He felt one step behind everybody, not thick but simply slow on the uptake and it left me feeling uneasy towards his character. It’s a horrendous thing to say, but you almost feel like he should be speaking with a stammer. The brawn overtaking the brains. While Isla Fisher and Dave Franco complete “The Four Horsemen” by providing characters that we never really get to meet. They don’t feel wrong, but it’s hard to criticise them because we never get let into their lives. You almost question why they are there, until virtually out of character, Dave Franco turns from street hustler into martial arts warrior and becomes the pivotal part of the plot. His transformation feels so wrong and misplaced with the tone of the film that I truly started to question the seriousness of it all when it happened.

The central four are then supported by some big names in Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Mark Ruffalo and while Ruffalo’s talent is obvious, outshining nearly everyone around him, his character appears visually a little bit too close to the unshaven, stressed, down on his luck music mogul he played in Begin Again. You almost wonder if he bothered getting changed when moving from filming one to the other. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman really disappoint though. They just lack emotion, especially Caine, and I really don’t want to say it but his performance is even bordering on the wooden. For me though, the real star of the show was Mélanie Laurent who is obviously designed to bring some warmth and humility to the depressive role of Ruffalo but ended up stealing the show by being the only character who actually felt real, likeable and interesting. It’s just a shame she’s not given a bigger part.

The movie has a silly plot that feels fake, false and a good few steps the wrong side of implausible but it kept me interested. It never felt slow or like it was dragging its feet, and while it’s final trick is “in play” you can easily see where the twists are turns going to be and how they are being done, it’s becomes a case of waiting for them to say “we did this by doing this” to confirm what you knew 20 minutes earlier, but the truly big twist with which the film finishes, and which it’s spent most of it’s running time working towards did keep me guessing, and ultimately proved my guess wrong.

Marvel - The Fantastic Four Comic

I thought Now You See Me would be an improbable tale of magic glamorised with tradition Hollywood glitz, but I was completely wrong because the story felt more like a twisting of a comic book idea. The unordinary made extraordinary, but it just doesn’t work because it’s not a comic book, it’s not removed from reality far enough. It pretends to be real life and ends up failing to feel alive. If you want comic book extravagance then Marvel and DC can provide you with enough to last a life time and if you want true magic, you have both Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and it’s box office superior The Illusionist. Now You See Me is a movie that doesn’t need to be seen.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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