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Owing to financial constraints, it’s been a while since I went to the cinema—in fact, I can’t actually remember the name of the last film I saw on the big screen. But one wet and windy day last week, I decided that I could think of nothing better to do than grabbing some popcorn and scoffing it in front of the latest blockbuster. The trouble was that I didn’t have a particular film in mind, so I adopted the slightly risky tactic of choosing one at random—after some “umm”-ing and “ahh”-ing I picked Now You See Me for its enigmatic title.
Now You See Me is a French-American collaboration that follows the incredible capers of four magicians brought together by a mysterious hooded benefactor. J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) perform their first show together in Las Vegas as ‘The Four Horsemen’, the finale of which involves enlisting a member of the audience to help them rob a bank … in Paris. In a seemingly impossible feat, the money is then scattered over the gob-smacked crowd.
FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), partnered by Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) from Interpol, is assigned to investigate the purported crime. His first port of call is Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a man notorious for exposing the tricks employed by his fellow magicians. However, at subsequent shows, the Horsemen’s tricks and theatricality become ever more elaborate—and thus the forces of good and evil become less simple to determine. Rhodes, Dray and Bradley in turn become increasingly suspicious of each other, creating the misdirection necessary to prevent the audience from uncovering the identity of the Horsemen’s unknown patron.
The first two thirds of Now You See Me were an absolute joy to watch. ‘Magician’ has never been the world’s coolest profession; but Atlas, Reeves, Wilder and McKinney give it some serious style, which is reflected in each and every one of their dazzling performances. That said, I was particularly thrilled with McKinney’s introductory scene in which his mind-reading character successfully cons a cheating husband out of a significant amount of cash by exposing his adultery … and then offering to wipe his wife’s memory of it. Perhaps what makes the Horsemen’s tricks so appealing to watch is that all of their targets decidedly ‘had it coming’.
The climactic twist of the film is an interesting one, though the epilogue was a bit drawn out and crass for me. Specifically, I could have done without the thinly veiled sexual tension between Rhodes and Dray that culminated in Rhodes’s trip to Paris to bare his soul (in a thriller such as this, a romance story is just not necessary). Given the adrenaline-fuelled spectacles that drive the bulk of the plot, the ending emerged comparatively as rather weak and disappointing, and I couldn’t help but feel that the credits should have rolled at least fifteen minutes earlier.
Nevertheless, I would not hesitate to recommend giving Now You See Me a chance. The key is probably to not take it too seriously—enjoy it for what it is and try not to dwell on what it could have been with slightly stricter editing.