Remember that time you watched Ocean’s Eleven and you thought that film was great? Well, so did the scriptwriters of Now You See Me, because the caper genre is back once again in this movie. But instead of former criminals who take money for themselves, the thieves here are magicians who act as the people’s Robin Hoods.
Good premise, great cast and intriguing plot, the truth is that the best parts of the film are those where the tricks (or robberies) are explained -they always are, aren’t they? Although some of the explanations arrive too soon, the script has some surprises reserved for the very end -and great ones.
The group of magicians is formed by Jesse Eisenberg (who basically repeats here his role from The Social Network, but even cockier), Isla Fisher (Mrs. Borat), Woody Harrelson (the funniest) and guess-who-his-brother-is-when-you-see-his-face Dave Franco, but being honest, the lead is Mark Ruffalo as the FBI agent in charge of the case.
Ruffalo’s character spends most of the movie making a fool of himself, but delivers every aspect of the role with subtlety. One of the best thespians nowadays, if you take a look at his screen career you have The Kids Are All Right, My Life Without Me (priceless), Shutter Island or The Avengers. And he has been critically acclaimed for every single one of them – let’s forget that waste of budget called Rumour Has It about the real characters behind The Graduate, someone surely blackmailed him to star in that one. Two hours that will never come back.
Which is a pity about this film is that two great names as Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman -reunited after The Dark Knight Trilogy- are underused, especially Caine. But that is how it works: big stars think a film is worth it and they decide to collaborate, even if their roles are not big enough. Still, they are featured in every poster and every promo, and let’s be honest, one of the reasons –one– that drove me to watch this movie was the presence of these two actors. And yes, Morgan Freeman does some narration, although it is only a 20 second thing -but of course he had to.
Another special mention goes to Mélanie Laurent -that French lady who killed Hitler in Tarantino’s universe- who acts as an Interpol detective working alongside Ruffalo, since the first robbery happens in Paris. And because American films NEED to show stereotypes at least once in every movie, Laurent’s character spends most of her time onscreen wearing a striped t-shirt. At least she is not wearing a beret.
Leaving aside some sound mixing mistakes and the strange rush towards the end to explain the whole plot, the truth is that it is entertaining. You spend a lot of time wondering what is going to happen, or what is really going on, suspecting everyone and changing sides between cops and magicians/thieves. But there is something missing, and despite everything else, that is the feeling you get in the end. Still, the “magic” tricks are extremely good. A bit fake sometimes, but they make sense.
Frenchman Louis Leterrier directs the film. He is responsible for The Incredible Hulk -the good one, with Edward Norton-, Clash of the Titans -a remake not really necessary for the world- and the Luc Besson-penned film Danny the Dog, where Morgan Freeman also had a role.
During the filming, Michael Caine fell asleep in his dressing room, only to wake up in the middle of the night to find out that there was no one there and that the set was closed.
Each one of magicians -their stage name is The Four Horsemen– has a specific gift, but the best tricks are performed by Harrelson’s character, a mentalist who hypnotises practically everyone in this film.
The film’s plot does honour to its tagline “the closer you look, the less you’ll see“. It doesn’t only fool the characters, it fools the audience.