Director: Louis Leterrier.
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine.
IN Christopher Nolan's excellent magician thriller The Prestige, a character talks about the three parts of a magic trick - the pledge, the turn, and the prestige.
These are apparently made-up terms, but they work. At the start, the audience is shown something ordinary (the pledge), something extraordinary happens (the turn), and then everything is returned to normal and the magician takes their applause from a satisfied and impressed audience (the prestige).
If we apply these principles to Now You See Me - a magician thriller from The Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier - the pledge and the turn are fantastic.
The movie takes four ordinary magicians, brings them together, fast-forwards one year, and suddenly they are doing extraordinary things together, notably robbing a bank in Paris while performing a show in Las Vegas... and that's just their first trick. So far, so great.
But when it comes to the prestige, things are not so great.
After 80 minutes of quick-handed plotting, clever misdirection and pulling quite a few aces out of its proverbial sleeves, Now You See Me fumbles its big reveal, wedging an unsatisfying twist and a few too many unanswered questions into its final act.
And it's only after the audience's half-hearted metaphorical applause have died down that you start to pull the film's tricks apart and see the cracks, the hollowness, the implausibilities, and frustrating faults that lie buried beneath its Vegas glitz and glamour.
Like a real magic show, Now You See Me is thoroughly entertaining for the most part but is ultimately silly and substanceless.
Leterrier puts on a good show and his top-notch cast is fantastic at bringing their characters to life, despite the fact the movie shoehorns so much plot into its running time that there is really no room for character development. As a result, we get well-acted caricatures - Eisenberg as the egocentric magician, Fisher as his former assistant who has become a star in her own right, Harrelson as the once-famous mentalist, and Franco as the petty crim with some handy magic-like skills.
Beyond the magicians, dubbed The Four Horsemen, the rest of the cast fares just as badly with how rounded their characters are written, yet perform admirably. Freeman is the former magician who now reveals their tricks, Ruffalo is the FBI agent on the trail of the Horsemen, Laurent is his unwanted Interpol assistant, and Caine is the financial backer for the Horsemen's increasingly audacious tricks.
Thankfully the film moves so quickly and is genuinely enthralling for most of its duration because it regularly works its magic and then lets you peak behind the curtains.
But it's all cheap thrills. Now You See Me is a bunch of really cool tricks that are enjoyable, but really just misdirection so you won't notice that there is no depth, no emotion, no themes, and no character development.
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