Sunday, June 9, 2013


Release date:
June 7, 2013
Louis Leterrier


Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Melanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine

Sometimes not getting a movie ticket ends up being good luck. I’d gone to my neighbourhood multiplex this weekend with the intention of watching Manoj Night Shyamalan’s After Earth. Since tickets weren’t available for the film, and since no self-respecting film buff would return from a theatre without watching anything, I opted for Now You See Me.

This is the story of four solo magicians/illusionists who are brought together by a mysterious fifth person to form a touring quartet, grandly – and it turns out, quite appropriately – called The Four Horsemen. They’re a formidable bunch: sleight-of-hand expert Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg from The Social Network), escape artist Henley Reeves (the glamorous Isla Fisher who we recently saw in The Great Gatsby), mentalist and conman Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and safe-breaker/pickpocket/lock-picker Jack Wilder (Dave Franco, who can best be introduced to Indian viewers as actor James Franco's brother). As a team when they hynotise an audience member during a live performance in Las Vegas and apparently teleport him to Paris to rob a bank even while the show is on, they get the attention of the FBI and Interpol. The sleuths can’t prove that the theft took place through any means other than magic, and of course they can’t admit to a belief in magic. Thus begins a hot pursuit to catch the foursome in the act of stealing before, during or after their subsequent shows. Running parallel to the joint investigation by FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) is another by Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a former man of magic who now earns a living by cracking practising magicians’ tricks and revealing them to the public.

There’s not much by way of story in Now You See Me, yet there’s a ton of fun to be had in the chase. Make sure you're there from the very first scene involving a card trick carefully orchestrated to ensure that the audience in the hall picks the same number as the audience on screen. What follows is equally intriguing. How are the Horsemen doing what they’re doing? Are they acting on their own? Considering that the fruits of their illusions/thefts seem to be divvied up among their viewers, what’s in it for the four? Eisenberg, Fisher, Harrelson and Franco have the challenge of getting us to care though we are told next to nothing about them... and they live up to that challenge. In the brief time we get with them off stage, the actors’ natural charm and attractiveness are in evidence, well complemented by a sense of humour and some good chemistry between them. In a film where the star is the plot, veteran Freeman and young Laurent (the lovely French actress who played Shosanna in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds) bring credibility to material that had the potential to be silly. The pick of the cast though is Mark Ruffalo who is supremely convincing as the scruffy, grouchy lead investigator on the case. Michael Caine - who plays insurance tycoon Arthur Tressler, sponsor of The Four Horsemen - is the only one of the lot who seems shortchanged by the screenplay.

The conception and execution of the shows by The Four Horsemen are among the film’s many selling points. Everything’s all glitzy and spectacular here, always audacious, sometimes even funny. Heightening the sense of drama is the fact that much of the action is indoors and in a muted palette of colours. When the camera does travel to the outside world, it feels like a burst of freedom, yet the shades remain understated as if the film is loathe to give us a complete escape from the mysteries it holds. Add to the production design several chases and magic tricks designed to keep us on edge, and what you get is a compact two hours filled with thrills.

Where the film slips up is when it makes what seems like a semi-cooked attempt to pre-empt criticism by those who might think it lacks depth. Towards this end, we are served up some superficial talk about the secret world of magicians and something that I didn’t even bother to understand called “The Eye”. It’s at this point that it seems like director Louis Leterrier (Transporter, Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk) and screenplay writers Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt were confused about whether to make a profound film or remain doggedly flimsy. The result is a half-hearted effort towards profundity. Mercifully, it’s extremely brief. Leterrier is also awkward in the handling of one of the romances in the film. Yes, there are two: one is barely brewing and we’re left guessing whether it will ever happen (which is nice and in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film); while the other is predictable and a tad tacky.

Now You See Me is unusual in the sense that except for the aforementioned portions, it’s a defiant hurrah to slim storylines without being foolish. While the film is on, the unrelenting energy and pace, the slick editing and the thumping background score make it impossible to give much thought to its flaws or the questions that remain unanswered (to me). Were they loopholes or was I inattentive? A couple of queries, I confess, occurred to me only after I began writing this review, which goes to show just how engrossing the film was. You see, while Now You See Me is unspooling on screen, there’s not a moment to think, blink or breathe.

Rating (out of five): ***

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
MPAA Rating (US):
122 minutes (as per
PG-13 (for language, some action and sexual content)
Release date in the US:
May 31, 2013

1 comment:

  1. It was a fun movie, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was doped out of a story that didn’t make any sense at all. Nice review Anna.