Sunday 11 August 2013

Film Review: Now You See Me

"Look closer, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see" 

From the semi-successful The Incredible Hulk to the horrendous Clash of the Titans, director Louis Leterrier might not have the greatest track record in the business but with crime/magic thriller Now You See Me, Leterrier has succeeded in pulling the white rabbit out of the hat. 

Fast, fun-paced and bursting with energy, Now You See Me will wow audiences with plenty of spectacle whilst only lacking a little in substance.
The story follows four amateur illusionists all with a special skill, from cocky magician Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), mouthy hypnotist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), beautiful escape-artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) to the youthful street hustler Jack Wilder (Dave Franco).

They are brought together by the desire to partake in one grand illusion, played out on a global scale - together the Four Horsemen (as they dub themselves) become like a modern-day Robin Hood act, supposedly robbing from the rich (such as Michael Caine's multi-millionaire) and giving to the disadvantaged and despondent.

After their first bank robbery captures the attention of the world media, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol operative (Melanie Laurent) are tasked with tracking the Four Horsemen along with professional illusion exposer Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). As the chase zig-zags across the US from Las Vegas to New York via New Orleans, the secrets that surround the Horsemen and their mysterious intentions begin to unravel in front of Rhodes' very eyes...or do they?

Now You See Me boasts an impressive array of talent both young and old - spunky young-uns like Eisenberg and Franco stand shoulder to shoulder with veterans like Caine and Freeman in what is one of the most entertaining ensemble casts of the year.

Eisenberg is great as the arrogant playboy ringleader of the Four Horsemen whilst Harrelson provides most of the witty one-liners that gets the audience laughing - together, they steal pretty much any scene they are in. Fisher and Franco pad out the foursome but are tragically underwritten, Fisher in particular. The film tries to establish some degree of sexual tension between her character and Eiseberg's but sadly nothing ever comes of it. This is a great shame as I would have liked to have seen a lot more of their characters than we actually did. Likewise, Franco's character is there purely because they needed a fourth member of the gang. 

Instead, the film switches focus to Mark Ruffalo's sceptical FBI agent Dylan Rhodes fairly early on. We see the magic unfold from his perspective and are kept in the dark regarding how the Horsemen pull off their increasingly audacious tricks. This doesn't prove to be the best choice of narrative direction for the film however.

The Ruff in action.
You see, Now You See Me's strongest suit comes in the form of the four likeable and hilarious leads - the audience roots for them and wants to see them pull off their tricks as a result of their likeability. Therefore, it follows that any character that opposes them is the antagonist, right? Herein lies the problem.

Ruffalo's FBI character is fairly bland - I found that I didn't connect with him as much as the others and found myself hoping he didn't succeed in usurping the Four Horsemen. Of course, the big thrill comes from the chase, the cat and mouse hijinks between the two parties as they try to get the jump on the other. I just felt that Ruffalo took too much time away from the more entertaining characters, like Eisenberg and Harrelson.

However, don't be fooled into thinking that Now You See Me is centred purely on this straight-forward goodie vs. baddie set-up. As you can expect from a film based upon lies and deceit, there are more twists, turns and rug-pulls throughout the film than you can shake a magic wand at. 

And while we're on the subject of magic tricks I will say this; Now You See Me does include some pretty dazzling set-pieces. From simple card tricks to grand illusions performed in-front of thousands, Leterrier and co. have done a great job of wowing the audience with all kinds of CGI wizardry. Sometimes the explanations are a little less than satisfactory but hey, it's a film about magic, they aren't going to give everything away.

Some of the dialogue was a bit hammy at times but on the whole, I thought the script was solid. The four leads are able to bounce jokes off of one another whilst Ruffalo and Laurent are lumbered with the heavy exposition - they convey it to the audience in a way that doesn't bore however, so brownie points for that.

On the whole, Now You See Me is a fun and entertaining Saturday night to be had if you sit back and enjoy the ride. Much like a real magic show, the real fun is in letting the film fool you and take you on an twisting adventure. It isn't flawless and a little beyond belief at times but a solid film nonetheless. 

I give Now You See Me: 7/10

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