Anthony's Film Review

Now You See Me (2013)

This thriller is quite entertaining with its ability to play tricks on the audience...

No matter how many times I see them, I never get tired of magic shows. I am always amazed by performers who put on illusory acts that defy logical explanation, whether it's a simple classic trick involving a rabbit in a hat or something very elaborate like being chained and tied up securely, getting lowered into a sealed container of water, and still being able to get out alive. No matter how insane a performance can get, there's always something even more daring for a magician to try and for an audience to cry out in amazement. The reason for this is simple: magicians follow a code of never revealing their tricks of the trade.

The 2013 thriller film Now You See Me, which combines a magic show and a crime thriller, kept me amused the same way. I never knew what was going to happen next, and when something interesting did happen, I ended up with a gaping mouth because I was in awe over something totally unexpected. This was an experience I would have with a magic show or a crime thriller story alone. To watch a movie that could successfully perform as a combination of the two was even better.

Speaking of combined performances, the four magicians whom this movie centers on are very talented alone and even more so as a team. Jesse Eisenberg is J. Daniel Atlas, who is a master with the sleight of hand. Woody Harrelson is Merritt McKinney, a hypnotist who can deduce much about a person from the tiniest clues, kind of like Sherlock Holmes. Isla Fisher is Henley Reeves, whom I would describe as a beautiful escape artist who could make Harry Houdini blush. Then there's Dave Franco as Jack Wilder, whose unique skills aren't clear right away, but they will be later on. Together, these four illusionists, calling themselves the Four Horsemen, put on a series of shows that not only wow the audience but also baffle law enforcement.

In Las Vegas, the Horsemen put on an act that entails a bank robbery. Not a mock robbery. A real one. The show involves picking a random audience member, teleporting him to the bank that holds his account, and bringing him back along with tons of cash that get dropped into the audience. My reaction to this sequence was the same as with any magic show I've ever seen. One, how did they DO that? Two, is there anything they CAN'T do? From that point on, I was prepared to be on the edge of my seat while watching this movie. After all, there's always something more daring for a magician to try.

Now is a good time to introduce the movie's other key players. There's Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler, whose wealth makes the Four Horsemen's shows a reality. Leading the effort against the Four Horsemen are Mark Ruffalo as FBI agent Dylan Rhodes and Melanie Laurent as Interpol agent Alma Dray. But the most interesting member of the supporting cast is Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley, the host of a television show called Magic Unmasked that reveals the tricks of the magician's trade. It is Thaddeus who aids Rhodes and Dray with compelling theories of how the Four Horsemen pull of their unbelievable illusions. Even so, he is as mysterious as the bank-robbing magician quartet. Many times, I wondered which side Thaddeus really was on, a sign that this movie could have some tricks up its sleeve.

What ensues is a howdunit (since the big question is about the Horsemen's methods, not who is pulling off each heist) mixed with a compelling cat-and-mouse chase. It's compelling because the cat is desperate to catch a mouse that is all too elusive. When the Horsemen get their next big show ready, the FBI is already waiting outside and inside the venue. However, the agents have no idea what is going to happen and when. All they can do is cover as much ground as possible, wait, and play it by ear. For the Horsemen who are the most clever tricksters anyone has ever seen, the FBI's method of watchful waiting is all the Horsemen need to gain the upper hand.

Throughout the movie, I found myself eagerly awaiting the next big interesting moment. It didn't matter if it was from the Horsemen or the FBI. In fact, I ended up rooting for both sets of characters. In the first half, I wanted the Horsemen to dazzle the public with their ingenious ways of giving people money. In the second half, I wanted the FBI to finally catch the Horsemen. There's also a fight sequence involving two FBI agents and one Horseman, which I found exciting to watch without actually caring about who would win at the end. Because it's possible to root for one side or the other, I think people who pick different sides will be equally satisfied with the movie.

Now You See Me certainly has a good plot, decent performances from its stars, and even breathtaking visuals. But where the film truly shines is the mind game the audience is forced to play. I will admit that the premise for Now You See Me is one of the more original ideas to come out in the movies in 2013. It's as if Hollywood still has some tricks left in its metaphorical sleeve. Overall, this movie is like a great magic show that is worth the price of admission.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Now You See Me, visit the Internet Movie Database.

In addition, check out my review of Now You See Me 2.


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