Now You See Me - Cinema Review

'as soon as you start to look closer, the magic washes away'

'The closer you look, the less you see'. So says J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), one of four magicians at the centre of Louis Leterrier’s conjuring caper. It’s a sentiment which quite aptly sums up the whole film: whilst you’re allowing the CGI-enhanced spectacle and pacy plotting wash over you, Now You See Me is undeniably really quite enjoyable. But as soon as you start to look closer, the magic washes away and the flaws begin to show whether you want them to or not.

There’s plenty here to like, not least the talented cast. Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson bring their usual brand of quick-witted charm-cum-arrogance to the table. Dave Franco too does well, not nearly at the leading man level of older brother James, but showing genuine promise in a role which at times gets unfairly sidelined with such big names in other supporting roles. With Isla Fisher completing the 'Four Horsemen', as the magical quartet are collectively known, there is palpable chemistry and spark between the film’s protagonists. It’s a shame then that this is vastly underutilised past the film’s opening act.

Elsewhere, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are firmly on autopilot - never even remotely challenged here, but still entertaining enough. Most impressive, however, is Mark Ruffalo in a role which hardly screams originality - surly FBI agent with unfettered disdain for the case he’s been assigned to - but which the actor manages, for the most part, to develop successfully.

The story rattles along at a pleasing pace, never slowing or losing momentum. The marriage of Ocean’s Eleven-esque capering and bombastic magical showmanship works well producing some pleasing moments when Leterrier gets the balance right. At times, however, the director seems mistaken about how compelling magic tricks are on the big screen. In a theatre, or even on TV, there’s an element of wonder to watching a real illusionist. When you know you’re watching an actor playing a magician whose tricks are computer-enhanced in post-production, even the most elaborate illusion is just not very impressive at all.

Unfortunately, once you start considering Now You See Me in anything more than a straightforward manner, things begin looking really rather ropey. The plot leaves several threads frustratingly unresolved, leaving you to fill in a bit too much elsewhere to make the whole story hang together. The film’s climax ends up as one big trick too far, ultimately leaving the story with more gaps in its logic than most audience members will be likely to forgive.

Taken purely as a piece of popcorn cinema, there’s enough within Now You See Me to entertain you for a couple of hours, as long as you firmly switch the analytical part of your brain off at the door. However, with such talent at his disposal and a concept with such potential, Leterrier’s movie should have been much better than the above-average magical muddle he’s managed. Another maxim Eisenberg’s Atlas offers in Now You See Me as the first rule of magic is 'always be the smartest guy in the room'. Unfortunately for Leterrier, he never is.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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