Now You See Me

Directed By: Louis Leterrier

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Mélanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Common

"Come in close, because the more you think you see, the easier it'll be to fool you."

-J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg)

Everyone loves a good magic trick.  It's the stuff that makes you put faith in the impossible, the inexplicable.  It's just hard to translate the awe and wonder of magic to the big screen.  Just look at The Incredible Burt Wonderstone earlier this year, which failed miserably at doing so despite a solid ensemble cast.  Beyond this recent flop, there's a long list of magic movies over the years that just haven't been able to find the right act.  Well, director Louis Leterrier has assembled an all-star ensemble in Now You See Me and takes center stage at the box office this weekend.  Let's go in close and see what he's got.

Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Merritt Osbourne (Woody Harrelson), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are all good magicians in their own right.  Performing in acts on stage and the streets, they've all managed to make a name for themselves.  One day, they each mysteriously receive a card telling them to meet at Evans Street in New York on March 29th.  Each of them curious, they all go to the designated location and find secret blueprints for a spectacular magic trick.  One year later, these four magicians are launching an act together as the Four Horsemen in Las Vegas backed by wealthy financier Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).

For their first act, the Four Horsemen decide to rob a bank.  They select an audience member and task him with going to his bank, which just happens to be in Paris.  By sending the audience member halfway across the world and back in three minutes, the Horsemen successfully pull off a theft of $3 million.  This brazen act gets the attention of law enforcement in the US and abroad.  FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol Agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent) are tasked with investigating the group’s actions and figuring out how they pulled off such a bold stunt.  They're not the only ones trying to figure everything out though.  Ex-magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) has a nasty habit of debunking magic acts and is interested in seeing what the Four Horsemen pull off next.

Now You See Me is less of a magic movie and more of a slick, modern caper film.  With a latent Robin Hood theme, it employs the same kind of formula you’ve seen in movies like Ocean's Eleven, just not quite as well.  Louis Leterrier crafts one fun popcorn flick, and the cast definitely delivers solid performances.  If you look closely enough, however, you can see past the elaborate stunts and CGI and find a few flaws.  If you don't, you'll be treated to one enjoyable heist after another as the Four Horsemen use the targeted deception and misdirection of magic on a global stage for all our entertainment.

Despite a star-studded cast, everyone has a chance to shine.  Jesse Eisenberg humorously portrays Daniel Atlas as the smartest guy in the room.  Isla Fisher gets to be sassy and seductive as magician Henley Reeves.  As mentalist Merritt Osbourne, Woody Harrelson gets to deliver his unique brand of wit time and time again throughout the film.  As the youngest of the bunch Jack Wilder, Dave Franco gets to be the slippery badass who lights everyone up.  As Agent Rhodes, Mark Ruffalo constantly and hilariously looks like he's ready to get green on the Four Horsemen.  For his part as ex-magician Thaddeus Bradley, Morgan Freeman portrays one smooth, sly old dude trying to ride the coat tails of his younger counterparts on their way down.  Even Mélanie Laurent stands out by aggressively pushing for a smarter strategy to take down the Horsemen.

It's all about the tricks in Now You See Me.  For his part in the director's chair, Louis Leterrier crafts one enjoyable story that constantly delivers the razzle dazzle necessary for a magic flick.  Leterrier tries to craft elaborate tricks and illusions that unfold in several stages throughout the film.  This is all intended to reel us in and delight us with the awe and wonder of magic and the sheer intellect of our four protagonists and their mystery benefactor (a.k.a. “The Fifth Horseman”).  For the most part, he succeeds at doing so.  However, there are times at which it all feels a bit too manufactured, and this definitely takes away from the film.

It wasn't easier for Leterrier to fool me when I looked closer at Now You See Me.  While I disagree with some of the plot and the way this heist movie is executed from a creative standpoint, some things are left best unexplained.  I don't want to spoil the movie for those of you looking forward to it.  That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie when I embraced its flaws.  Now You See Me gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Chardonnay with this one.