johnlink ranks NOW YOU SEE ME (2013)

I eat up these sort of twisty illusion films. NOW YOU SEE ME promises a solid cast doing all sorts of trickery and magic and theft. It promises a daring mix of a crime film with a magician film. Does it deliver?


I watched NOW YOU SEE ME (2013) on 2.22.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

A bunch of street performers get pulled together by a mysterious person to perform in a series of magic shows. The group has alpha male Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), vixen Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), the old washed-up mind reader Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), and the young buck Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). Turns out the tricks they are doing involve robbery. The illusion is strong enough that the police can’t crack it. Said police are led by the team of agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and French Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). Also on the trail is a guy who has made a career out of spoiling magician’s secrets, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). He butts heads a little bit with the groups financial backer Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). The group is called the Four Horesemen. However, we know there is a fifth lurking in the background. The movie asks us to try and figure out who it is.

The first act of this movie is pretty cool. It is standard character development by watching them do what they do. Yet the enacting of it is fun to watch. An opening illusion, using no editing trickery, is awesome. It sets the movie off right. Yet, as the film goes on to use of CGI to do things which would be better if they were practical. Sometimes, the illusion is ruined when we know it is not being performed at all, but rather added in during the post production process. Despite this shortcoming, the movie gets on a nice roll. The structure is sound. Trick, reveal; trick, reveal; trick, reveal. The structure is odd, however, in the way that it introduces us to the Horsemen early, and then abandons them for much of the movie as they become the off screen thing being chased rather than us seeing them as the object of the chase.

NOW YOU SEE ME sets us up for a big twist. The ending wants to be USUAL SUSPECTS, but it is not. For lack of options, I guessed the ending half way through. Rather than ruin the movie, however, it made the rest of the film somewhat more enjoyable. It was like watching the film for a second time, only it was my first viewing. The hints that are dropped are pretty subtle. The set up, however, leaves the film few options to choose from. In that way, this is the rare twist movie, for me anyway, where it wouldn’t really benefit from further viewings. I still see new things every time I watch USUAL SUSPECTS because of its use of perspective (can we trust what we see). But in NOW YOU SEE ME, the forced omniscient perspective doesn’t leave the film any wiggle room for interpretation.

The performances are efficient enough. Nothing special to see here. Jesse Eisenberg plays, well, every other character he has ever played. I’d love to see him switch it up some time. Harrelson, Caine, Freeman, and Fisher similarly do their thing. They aren’t asked to be anything more than their standard persona. Ruffalo and Laurent are given a bit more to do, but only marginally. This is a film about plot rather than character, so don’t come here expecting the depth of other magic-centric films like THE ILLUSIONIST or THE PRESTIGE.

The script is fine when it isn’t painting itself into a corner. The spectacle of the magic shows really does work, and there is great thought put into the trickery. Perhaps the final magic trick is a little bit of a let down after all the build, but there is enough before it to make the moment work. The dialogue is snappy and has some funny moments, though it isn’t anything we don’t see in a dozen other thrillers a year with some snappy comebacks and a bit of humor.

NOW YOU SEE ME is a perfectly fine distraction for a couple of hours. It doesn’t break ground, it doesn’t stick the landing without some stumbles. It does entertain fairly well though, and it breezes on by like the snazziest of tricks.






~ by johnlink00 on February 23, 2014.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks NOW YOU SEE ME (2013)”

  1. Good review. I agree this one is more or less entertaining, but flawed.

  2. Good review John. I love a good movie full of twists, turns and all sorts of unpredictability. But on one condition: It has to be done right. This was not one of those cases and instead, I was left confused, angry and feeling manipulated.

  3. Nice review John. I thought this was alright for what it was. Pretty inoffensive but not going to set the world alight.

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