The tag line for the film “Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see “ is very true of the film. It wants the audience to think they are seeing one thing, and it wants them to think they are smart about it, but there is actually something else going on. The theme of the film actually represents the film, that’s the point. It wants to trick you, yet the trick doesn’t actually make much sense even though the pay off might be intriguing. NOW YOU SEE ME is a very fun film, with an interesting premise but it doesn’t deliver as well as it should have.
Our film introduces us to four magicians J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), who each find an invitation. They wind up meeting at an apartment, someone has brought them together for reasons we do not know. A year later they are an act called The Four Horsemen, performing at Las Vegas from benefactor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). During this performance they stage the robbing of a bank in France, and it turns out the performance wasn’t exactly that as the bank in France is missing their money. The case falls into the hands of Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) who teams up with Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) to catch the magicians and work out what they are up to. On their side is a man who disproves magicians Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).
Now this is basically as much as gets revealed in the trailer, and it was a smart main trailer because when you sit down and watch the film, there is so much more happening and to reveal any more is heading into spoiler territory. What makes this an enjoyable film on the surface is that mystery and watching it all unfold. There is definitely a motivation behind what the Four Horsemen are doing, and it isn’t revealed right away. Each person has reasons for what they are doing, and there are hints to it that make their characters intriguing and easy to be around. When it comes to our law enforcement they are there to get to the bottom of what is going on, and the film isn’t as strong when it focuses on them. The magicians are almost forgotten about for a weak romance plot that really doesn’t go anywhere and its purpose just doesn’t feel right either.
I appreciate that NOW YOU SEE ME wanted to defy conventions and it wanted to make reveals to surprise the audience, and to make certain acts feel like a magic show. Some of it works, and other times it doesn’t, if you actually do pay attention you’ll work out what the twists are. Again some make sense and the main big one actually doesn’t exactly and it brought down the film for me. The fact that it really did make sense and fit in properly bothered me, and it made the entire film feel weaker for it. The meaning behind it, to have a shocking twist was all well and good, but have a twist that actually makes sense, not something that just feels cool. The script isn’t what I would call strong, there are certain elements that work, but sadly it is kind of a mess that was kind of untangled.
The performances here are good though, our veterans feel like they are sleep walking through the film but still remain good! Morgan Freeman may have been my personal favourite part of the film, no matter how much effort he puts in, he’s just such a charismatic and fun person. Michael Caine seemed to be having fun, and that was good enough for me. Mark Ruffalo did an admiral job, he’s probably our main character and he did try and develop a character as best he could with the material he was given. The Four Horsemen are all likeable, Eisenberg and Harrelson are playing characters they’ve done before. Isla Fisher was lovely and very cute, and when she needed to do more she certainly did. Dave Franco is such a talented young actor and he was sorely underused here. Melanie Laurent wasn’t really given a lot and she didn’t seem to stretch it out either.
Louis Leterrier did a fine job as director, it is actually a very nice looking film and it is shaped as well as it could be. The pacing was pretty good, I didn’t find myself bored at all, and even through the weirder parts I was still glued. While this is a mess of a film in many ways, it certainly had a big heart and a lot of ambition. Not a total waste by any means, it is a really fun and enjoyable film, good for a lazy afternoon.