Have there been many films where a group of magicians use their skills of misdirection to perform bank heists? I don’t remember too many to be honest, if any at all. There’s probably a few, I don’t doubt it. But certainly none that stick in my recent memory. And certainly not of the huge blockbuster variety.
Now You See Me taps into this rich vein. However, not all magic tricks could be considered useful for robbing a bank. For instance, I’m not sure David Blaine sitting in a transparent box, suspended above London for 44 days, and trying to hold his piss and shit in (whilst unimpressed Londoners shout obscenities and throw eggs, sausages, bacon and beer cans at him), qualifies.
Nope, the magicians in Now You See Me are more your David Copperfield type. There’s four of them. The ginger girl from Home and Away, the barman from Cheers, that guy from the Facebook movie, and James Franco’s less successful brother.
Together, the four of them form the mighty magical team, “The Four Horsemen” (even though one of them is obviously a girl). But there’s also a fifth mysterious horseman, someone working from the shadows, who brings the other four together using four calling cards, some flashy lights, a fog machine, and the plans for some daring magical heists that will leave the world gasping, and the FBI clutching at straws.
It gets off to a bold start. The team’s first live trick involves teleporting someone all the way from Las Vegas to the inside of a bank vault in Paris, in front of a live studio audience. It has the classic “How the hell did they do that?” feel of some of the world’s most audacious tricks. Luckily, it does get explained, but not straight away. The task of puzzling it out falls to FBI agent, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and sexy Interpol agent, Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent).
But is everyone as they seem? Who exactly is the fifth horseman? Perhaps to the film’s detriment, the film switches focus away from the four magicians — and onto the FBI team trying to catch them — for a large chunk of the movie. The magicians aren’t explored in any great depth, but I suppose this helps maintain an air of mystery, of the sort that the best real world tricksters strive for. I just feel The Four Horsemen were a bit too enigmatic, only appearing now and again to give the FBI someone to chase.
Admittedly, the chases are pretty exciting. Louis Leterrier directs the action well, keeping it fast, but never confusing. Although, he does have a tendency to get carried away by having someone stand still, with the camera sweeping around them in a full 360, perhaps once too often.
The film falters in the third act, with the final trick not seeming like much of a trick at all: the huge, flashy build up making it feel a bit anti-climatic. By this point though, it’s less about the tricks and more about what the twist is going to be. It’s a big one, that might have you questioning every massive plot hole that opens up because of it. I think though, that the film develops just the right amount of good will before the reveal, that it doesn’t really matter too much.
I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a great way to pass the time. It’s fun, loud, flashy, and dumb, but also a bit forgettable. It doesn’t quite hit the heights that it could have. But it’s still better than watching David Blaine trying not to shit in a box.