Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Mélanie Laurent, Isla Fisher
Running Time: 115 min
Release: July 3
During a Vegas stage show a group of magicians known as “The Four Horsemen” (led by Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson) seem to transport an audience member to Paris and have him rob a bank on their behalf, and then they distribute the money to the delighted crowd. The group promise their upcoming show will be even more spectacular, causing FBI agent Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and his Interpol partner Vargas (Mélanie Laurent) to enlist the help of a magic debunker (Morgan Freeman) to help foil the group’s next plot. But the Horsemen always seem to be two steps ahead, and there appears to be a mysterious fifth Horseman pulling the strings from behind the scenes.
Just like the tricks performed by the titular Horsemen, Now You See Me is a fun, energetic romp full of razzle-dazzle and technical know-how, but it’s ultimately pretty fluffy and insubstantial. Director Louis Leterrier clearly has a great love for the subject matter and the film reflects the flamboyant showmanship of a Vegas magic show. It’s filled with extravagant camera moves, loud music and quick cut edits to overwhelm the senses. But this all out assault can be a little tiring after a while and when the film slows down for a quiet conversation between two characters you can practically hear Leterrier tapping his foot impatiently until he can move along to the next set-piece.
Since the theme of the film is “The more you see, the less you know” it’s fitting that the story leaves a trail of breadcrumbs while building to the reveal of the Horsemen’s true motives. While the final twist is certainly surprising it also succeeds in raising a lot more questions than it answers. On the whole the film only gets away with its plot issues by quickly racing through them and hoping you don’t pause to think about them. As soon as it ends you’ll immediately begin to puzzle “Wait a minute, how did XYZ happen?”, and a second viewing would no doubt reveal plot chasms you could land planes in.
The characters are pretty one note with only the excellent ensemble cast infusing them with any depth. Ruffalo and Freeman are the stand-outs, while Eisenberg irritates with his insufferably smarmy turn as the lead Horseman. Michael Caine appears as a character who seems to be central to the story before promptly disappearing halfway through the film, which is somewhat disappointing. Likewise a romantic sub-plot between Ruffalo and Laurent is attempted but never quite comes off despite the actors’ best efforts, and the script’s attempts at witty banter have a bad habit of falling flat.
In spite of its issues Now You See Me is a slick caper film with a great cast, and has such a winning sense of good natured fun that you can’t help but be swept along for the ride while it lasts.