Now You See Me

18 Jun

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Now You See Me has what I believe to be a fantastic premise; a group of four magicians come together after being chosen for reasons unknown. They become a huge hit, playing large arenas and use their shows to pull off robberies, subsequently giving the money to their audience.

When a ‘secret screening’ was announced of an upcoming soon-to-be hit film at a UK cinema chain, I was excited about which movie it might be. Now You See Me had been one of the films I was hoping for, so when the lights went down and the movie began to play, I was pleased to the say the least. Unfortunately, as the film progressed I found myself becoming disappointed.

J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are all low-level magic performers, each specialising in their own area. When they get called together by somebody they don’t know, for reasons that are not explained to them, they become massively popular. However, as their act seemingly involves performing belief-defying robberies (they start with an apparent bank heist), the FBI and Interpol quickly become involved in trying to stop the act. The key protagonists in that chase are Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent).

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There were certainly plenty of things to like about Now You See Me and, although I’ve already told you I was disappointed with it, that in no way means this is a bad film – it isn’t. The film starts with the promise that, as with magic, the closer we look, the less we’ll see. That line had me intrigued from the off; it suggested there’d be a twist and that as a viewer, I should be prepared to be tricked as well.

When the film had moved to the point of showing us the stage shows the group, now known as “The Four Horsemen”, put on, I found myself very impressed. The first show takes place at The MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. I thought that the scale of the shows was fantastic; they looked like big productions and were played out exactly as I would expect a magic show with four leading performers to play out. Each magician was cocky and arrogant and, in truth, a little irritating in their over-the-top stage demeanor but I thought it was very well produced. That was a theme that continued through all of the shows the group put on.

The first trick involved a bank heist and, although it struck me as a slightly unrealistic idea, I did believe it was well executed, giving it a believable feel. Unfortunately, that believability did decrease as the shows went on, with silly gimmicks being introduced for apparent comedy effect, though I felt they fell short in that regard.

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Despite the interesting premise and the intriguing opening to the movie, unfortunately as it went on it became something of a damp squib, and I found plenty of things to dislike about it. One of these was a ridiculous fight scene. I thought the scene seemed a little pointless, thrown in to impress people who don’t want to give much thought to what they’re watching. It descended from being a relatively interesting film to being bog-standard popcorn-cinema. It wasn’t especially well choreographed and just didn’t really seem to fit.

Although I found the key characters to be good, I was ultimately disappointed with how one-dimensional they proved to be. The film is extremely plot-driven and that is absolutely fine, but the basic outline of these characters is interesting enough that a delve into their histories might have been welcome at times. I’m always interested in what makes a character tick but never felt that was answered or addressed in this picture, which was a shame.

To a man, each of the cast all do their jobs competently. Eisenhower and Harrelson are both obnoxious and irritating, which I was fine with as it seemed to be their role. Both have some amusing dialogue, although I did eventually grow tired of Harrelson’s mentalism shtick. Fisher and Franco were both underused in my opinion, but there is nothing wrong with their performances. Ruffalo puts in a good shift, and Mélanie Laurent is very watchable. I could also listen to her talk all day, so beautiful is her French accent, but that’s another story.

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The biggest disappointment of this film for me was the ending. Throughout the movie, we are built up to expect a spectacular finish, but instead the only thing that is spectacular is the failure to deliver. It is apparent for a long time that there is going to be a twist at the end, and this is an area that always concerns me in any film. I’ve said before that I strongly believe for any twist to be effective, the viewer has to be given a chance to guess it. There have to be hints so that when the big reveal comes, you can either applaud yourself for working it out or kick yourself and shout “I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming!”

Well, this is the fatal flaw in Now You See Me. When the twist is revealed, it is near-impossible to have any feeling about it as you’ve been given no reason to see it coming. It makes hardly any sense at all and renders huge elements of the story completely pointless. Even the main characters barely seem to care about it. I’m entirely confident that if I watched this film through again, I wouldn’t be able to pick up on anything I missed that might otherwise have lead me to work out the films conclusion. After the reveal, there are also a couple of added scenes that have no relevance or point at all, seemingly trying to add some last-minute emotional depth to the movie that doesn’t work.

Despite my negative comments, and the just below average score you’ll see at the bottom of the page, I do not believe Now You See Me is a bad movie. The premise is excellent, the cast is and some elements of the story absolutely held my interest. It’s full of bombast and confidence and has high production values, giving a very polished look to the film. Sadly, there are too many things that let the film down to make it anything more than average; the weak end is a nail in the coffin of the films attempts to be a clever crime thriller and moves it away from the arena of just plain forgettable films to actually being a little irritating.

5/10

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One Response to “Now You See Me”

  1. xtg120 June 19, 2013 at 01:10 #

    Reblogged this on xtg120.

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