In recent years the movies have once again come around to the visual power of the magic trick. We have had a number of high-profile films covering the subject notably the historically based dramas The Illusionist and The Prestige. Hollywood has once again realised that a magic show and the big screen marry up really well. The latest of this type of film is the magic / heist movie Now You See Me.
Four magicians who are scraping a living working the smaller venues, the street and conventions are approached by a mysterious figure with an invitation to a flat in New York. They meet up and find themselves presented with an opportunity in the form of schematics and instructions. One year later the now branded Four Horsemen are a huge draw on the Las Vegas stage having been given the financial backing of businessman Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). For the finale of their act they choose a random member of the audience, transport him to his home bank in Paris and have him witness the theft of three million Euros.The stolen money is then transported back to Las Vegas and sprayed into the audience in spectacular fashion.
With such a public display the Four Horsemen are arrested by the FBI in the form of reluctant agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo). They bring in magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) to assist. The Horsemen are eventually released due to lack of evidence and the game begins in earnest to catch them in the act and bring them down.
This is a film of two parts. It is set up like a magic trick in that there is the build up before the reveal. To be honest the build up is the most satisfying part of the movie. The way the principal cast are introduced is very clever in that we get a flavour of their personalities, their skill set and an insight into their back stories. All this is done in such a way as to still hold back on the main mystery of the film. What is it all about? The reveal is not in any way disappointing it’s just that it has a lot to do to better the build up.
The main cast has a good on-screen chemistry together. Jesse Eisenberg and Isla Fisher work well as the former double act with the dying embers of a relationship still there. Woody Harreleson and Dave Franco in slightly lower profile roles compliment each other and add an extra dimension to the team. The performances are universally good. As stage magicians who are playing a part at all times the cast are allowed to be larger than life. This gives them a lot of scope in their performances which they tackle admirably.
The magic show sequences in the film are all spectacular. This is in no small part to the visual effects created by the Canadian visual effects company Rodeo FX. The Las Vegas arena scene and the New York scene are both spectacular and seamless. You can check out the work involved here.
The whole thing is held together by a script that doesn’t pause for breath. Given a little time and some examination a few holes could be found but that would be pointless as the film is all about the spectacle. The director Louis Leterrier handles the film with style. He is a seasoned action director with several big budget films behind him. his experience shows in the way the action scenes are handled. There is a tendancy for action scenes to become too frenetic with some of the detail of the situation lost in the rapid cuts. Leterrier is able to produce sequences where you know exectly what is going on at all times.
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable visual spectacle. Recommended.