Review: Now You See Me

Now you see me is what would happen if Ocean’s 11 featured a magician. Looking back it’s actually somewhat surprising that it didn’t actually. It’s slick, cool and well done. But it also has a problem a lot of these types of films have: consistency.

And the Academy Award for poster design goes to...

And the Academy Award for poster design goes to…

Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco play different types of magicians who are brought together by a mysterious benefactor to perform as “The 4 Horsemen,” the crux being that they use their different specialties to not only put on incredible and elaborate shows but also pull off crimes. Quite why they’re doing what they’re doing becomes clear as the film goes on but FBI agent Mark Ruffalo only cares about the how. And, with that basic set up we’re taken into the world of an exciting, and twisty conspiracy/crime film.

While the film is dripping with style, there are some plot elements that are simply infuriating as they relate to the conspiracy aspect. Clearly I can’t reveal too much, but suffice it to say conspiracies are really hard to do in films. The writer and director must delicately balance how everything is shown so as to be truthful to the world of the movie and to not tip their hands to the audience too early. Additionally the actors must know how to play every scene in that same vein. When everything is revealed the internal consistency will jump instantly to the audiences’ minds and the movie will either hold together or fall apart then and there.

Well there is another option, I suppose, to land on shaky ground. See it’s not so much that nothing holds together, it does, it’s just that there’s there are so many competing elements in play (not to mention red herrings) that there’s a feeling of bloat. And some of the logic behind the ultimate reveal is suspect at the least and completely out of left field at its worst. In fact, for a second you almost wonder if some of the twists were engineered into the movie from the beginning or not.

But, and this is a big but, this movie is a whole lot of fun. The actors are clearly having a blast-especially in the magic scenes. Harrelson in particular is having more fun than we’ve seen on screen from him in a while. Eisenberg, who sadly seems stuck in his Zuckerberg persona from The Social Network in some sort of twisted if-you-keep-your-face-like-that-it-will-freeze perversion, and Ruffalo spend most of the movie competing so see who can be more awful and American film newcomer Mélanie Laurent just basically desperately tries to justify her place in it-which could have succeeded had the plot gone in a different and hinted at direction. And yet, it’s all just so entertaining that you barely notice. Oh, and special mention to Franco who, while less famous than big brother James, has really carved out a niche for himself at the go to willing-to-do-anything actor by choosing disparate roles in various genres and media. His role here isn’t as prominent as some of the more known stars but his scenes also hugely impact the plot and he handles the load perfectly.

I can’t say this is a perfect movie, but I also can’t recommend it enough. Beyond how much fun it is to watch it’s just sensationally cool. You don’t often see a new twist on the classic heist movie formula and this really steps up the game. There’s only a few big action moments and very little gun play. Almost all of the real action of this movie comes from the interplay between the characters- theater of the mind if you will. And just like a good magic trick, you’ll be straining to figure out how they did it. B+

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