Now You See Me
Trailers so often flatter to deceive that I shouldn’t have been taken in by the oldest trick in the book. Now you See Me – the trailer; Now You Don’t – the film.
The cast is a temptation to start with; Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent – what’s not to like? Then there’s the whole magic thing all tied up with some major scam, almost like The Usual Suspects, as four magicians are mysteriously invited to a locked room, and given the blueprints for a series of amazing tricks – by someone they never meet.
A year later, they’re performing the tricks in front of thousands, while their rich benefactor Caine beams happily at them from the sidelines. Another member of the audience is Freeman, who is a professional debunker, and also on their trail is out-of-his-depth cop Ruffalo, who has been saddled with unfeasibly gorgeous French Interpol cop Laurent. That’s the set up. Something big is going down, and everyone, both in the film and in the audience, is trying to guess what it is; or even who it is, since there is clearly some mastermind behind the whole operation.
The trouble is, when the reveal comes at the end, it feels both improbable and anticlimactic. For all sorts of reasons, that I won’t go into to avoid spoiling it for you, it is almost literally impossible that the person in question could have pulled it all off. But even if the ending was better, the film is also fatally flawed by a narrative that takes such liberties. The stage tricks defy the laws of physics, but are then explained with accompanying flashback by Freeman; but the explanations also require such a massive suspension of belief, that there is no point at which we can connect with the film as anything other than the flimsiest of creations without a toe, let alone a foot, touching the ground of reality.
The cast are saddled with one note performances. They do their one thing, and that’s it. Eisenberg is superior and arrogant; Harrelson is roguish and charming; Freeman is a know all; Laurent is a all blonde and gorgeous and European; Ruffalo is stubbly and confused and irritable. And that’s it. There have been magic films before; The Prestige and The Illusionist collided with each other a few years ago. Neither of them was great, but both were better than this shallow flim flam of a film that is all surface and no content. Warning to self – remember that the trailer is not the film.
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