Leterrier's ‘Now You See Me’ is a Magnificent Illusion
The greatest weapon in a successful magician’s arsenal is misdirection, an arm wielded with razor-sharp precision by Louis Leterrier’s crime thriller “Now You See Me.” Like a talented illusionist, Leterrier’s film brandishes distraction, so that you only focus on elements in your line of sight. While your attention is locked on what Leterrier and his writers want you to see, the picture deftly maneuvers in the background, plotting to catch you off-guard with a masterful trick.
"Now You See Me" follows four quirky, yet skilled magicians who forge a partnership: J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). Despite their conflicting egos, they form an act together in the spirit of cooperation, dubbing themselves, “The Four Horsemen.” Soon, this new crew skyrockets to superstardom with a unique illusion: robbing banks without leaving the stage. As part of the show, the generous tricksters shower their audience with the pilfered loot.
Although the public adores The Four Horsemen, the authorities aren’t as amused by their crimes. Anxious to nab them, the powers that be assign Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), a hardnosed FBI agent, to the case. Rhodes is determined to take down the Horsemen by any means necessary, however he doesn’t anticipate the challenge of collaborating with a new partner: French Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). Together, Rhodes and Dray must pool their wits and their resources in an attempt to get one step ahead of The Four Horsemen. They might need some aid though, from Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a famous skeptic who makes a living exposing magicians’ methods.
Perhaps the best trick that “Now You See Me” plays is lulling you into the false sense of security that this is a straightforward cops and robbers flick. Its cat and mouse game acts as a smokescreen to conceal a complex story with heist antics like the “Ocean’s” franchise, “Usual Suspects” -style intrigue, and puckishness in the vein of “Lucky Number Slevin.” Much like “Slevin,” this film also ropes you into a brilliant long con akin to the Kansas City Shuffle: You look left and they go right.
Even with that level of suspense, “Now You See Me” doesn’t alienate you by trying to be overly confusing. You’ll get just enough information to stay engaged, while you wonder who’s good or bad, who’s smart or dumb, and most importantly, if there’s a fifth Horseman lurking in the shadows. As Eisenberg’s Atlas says however, “The closer you look, the less you see.” These questions are misdirection that the picture uses to skillfully accomplish its grandest illusion. And when all is unveiled, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well it hid its subtle clues from you along the way. Like me though, you might feel like the movie over explains itself during this big reveal.
Sadly the dialogue in “Now You See Me” is not as smart as its narrative. Certain characters, especially ones in law enforcement like Rhodes, have some frustratingly idiotic lines. At least there’s never a dull moment, because director Louis Leterrier keeps a brisk pace with swoopy, entertaining camera movements. Unfortunate side effects of those angles, are that they occasionally have the capacity to make you ill, and that they become monotonous toward the end. In spite of those very minor annoyances, “Now You See Me” is as satisfying and engrossing as a carefully orchestrated magic trick. This magnificent illusion kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
My Grade: A-....as in Almost There! A Few Tweaks Away from Total Awesomeness!