The rules of magic and movies are quite different. In both you generally want to entertain. In magic you fool the audience and hide your secrets. In movies fooling the audience is cheating and everything should be revealed by the end.
Now You See Me doesn’t quite succeed at either.
This movie is a big ensemble with Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. The plot involves heists performed by magicians calling themselves The Four Horseman and the FBI/Interpol/Magic debunkers trying to figure how, why and what their end goal is.
I liked a lot of this movie. I was eager to see it. The cast, premise and trailers all sold a movie that I wanted to experience. The cast is solid. The premise – hmm, I’ll come back to that, but there are indeed cool magic tricks.
The highlight is indeed the big central magic acts. There are three and their execution and the subsequent investigations deliver the goods. In fact the first trick is fully explained – which is why it doesn’t work like a magic show, but it is cool movie making.
* I say a couple misleading things below so as not to reveal the plot twists – there are several. But my points are truthful. *
With that said – ultimately the movie is flawed. First, the premise. The trailers and, indeed the first 20 minutes, indicate the movie is about the Four Horseman. But that is misdirection. The movie actually spends more time on the trio pursuing them – the FBI agent, the Interpol agent, and a magic debunker. At the end of the movie you don’t learn much more about the supposed leads than you learned in that first 20 minutes.
Second, the denouement. It makes almost no sense. It provides some final character notes, but, huh?
Finally, the movie asks you to think and try and figure it out. It plays fair with its plot twists – all are foreshadowed. But other than that foreshadowing most of what happens off the magic stage is overly contrived. Here is an example – after the first heist, in which the Four Horseman say they are robbing a bank, they are brought in for questioning. Ultimately the FBI let them go because they don’t know how it was done. This is silly. They said they were robbing a bank. The bank was robbed. The money was recoverable. That should have been enough to arrest them. Soon after they discover how the trick was done. But they still don’t arrest anyone. Instead they surveillance the next act.
The movie is filled with moments like that. The movie explicitly asks you to look closely, but it shows its flaws when you do.
I still enjoyed it. It moves quick. The cast is engaging. The plot twists are cool. And the magic tricks are very neat.
Just ignore the trailers. Don’t look too close.