The dictionary defines magic as “the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.” Illusions can also be referred to as “tricks” which is a very fascinating word altogether. In most cases, a trick would be taken as a negative word inferring that someone has duped or mislead someone else and the consequences of said action have led to an unfortunate outcome. However, in the case of magicians, the tricks that they perform ultimately lead to the intended audience feeling the sense of perplexity or even sheer astonishment. To put it simply, in certain circumstances humans love to be lied to. Even though when watching a magician perform, we all know that everything they are doing is a ruse and completely fake; something in the back of our minds is compelling us to take pleasure in the lie. Films do the same thing; we all know that we are watching actors trick us into believing mind-boggling situations that couldn’t possibly be real, but we still enjoy the deception that takes place. So when these two worlds intermingle – the world of magic and the world of film – what comes from it is an extraordinary result.
Now You See Me is a new film directed by Louis Letterier that is able to combine the power of magic with the elements of the mystery and thriller genres. Four different low-key illusionists with four different magical strengths are going about their lives performing separately for average audiences. That is, until one day, when all four receive tarot cards from a mysterious person that tells them to meet at a specified time and location. They go about meeting up, which ultimately results in all four of them combining their abilities for one big super show. They are now referred to as “The Four Horsemen” and they execute a mind-bending trick that leads to their audience receiving millions of stolen Euros and all four of them being arrested. Not being able to pin the theft on the magicians, Detective Dylan Rhodes, played by Mark Ruffalo, decides to keep a watchful eye on the four as they go on to perform more illegal activities. What stems from that is the film changing into a brilliant chase/thriller that keeps the audience guessing on what is really going on. Many possible plants are thrown in front of you, but when the twist is finally revealed, all you’ll be thinking is how you didn’t see it in the first place.
All around this film can be directly compared to the 2006 film The Prestige. Both films are encapsulated with magic and both feature modest hints throughout that eventually lend themselves to unthinkable finales. Conversely, while The Prestige is seen as a very dramatic, brooding, thriller, Now You See Me is a more light-hearted, funny, action-oriented magical mystery. Now You See Me is a film that knows what it wants to be and goes about doing so in a fun, summer blockbuster kind-of-way. For what little screen time each character gets within the film, each actor is able to show them as three-dimensional fleshed out personalities. Jesse Eisenberg plays the Criss Angel type, who is the most well-known magician of the bunch, and uses his skills not only to impress his audience, but also to bed female fans. Woody Harrelson plays a rudimentary hypnotist type who uses his abilities to scam victims out of money. Both of these actors play off each other quite well with numerous hilarious actions and situations taking place.
When what has been dangling in front of you the whole time has finally been revealed, I must say that it turns out to be a very satisfying experience. Few films nowadays are able to lead me on for almost the entirety of the film, without me seeing the clues from a mile away. Now You See Me on the other hand, disguises itself so well that it literally feels like a real magician has performed the ultimate illusion. This is a film that hopefully won’t be disappearing from theaters anytime soon.
FINAL TAKE: 9/11
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Synopsis: A group of four magicians perform amazing yet illegal illusions while a mysterious detective attempts to track them down.
Director: Louis Leterrier
Actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman
Run time: 116 min