There’s something attractive about the illusion of magic. From a simple card trick to making an elephant disappear, when it’s done right it’s a delight to see. Which makes me happy to report that the new film, “Now You See Me,” is certainly done right.
J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg) is a fast talking, playing card carrying magician, currently performing his tricks on any street corner that will have him. Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson at his best) is a mentalist who can hypnotize you into doing anything. He’s now appearing as the Sunday brunch entertainment at a local hotel. Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) rides the ferry across the river, impressing people with his ability to bend spoons. And Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) has a great water torture gimmick that involves flesh eating piranhas. All four are barely making a living. One day they all receive a themed Tarot Card, directing them to a meeting that will change their lives forever.
Packed with some incredible on-screen sleight of hand, “Now You See Me” tells the tale of these individual magicians, now performing in Vegas as a group billed as “The Four Horsemen,” and how they reward their audiences by showering them with cash. From robbing banks. Or rather, having their on-stage volunteers rob them. After apparently stealing 3 million Euros from a French bank (remember, they’re in Vegas) they are arrested and interrogated by both FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) and Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), sent over from INTERPOL. With no real proof, the four are released and spirited away by their benefactor, the very wealthy Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). They also come under the scrutiny of Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman), a man who has spent his life shadowing magicians and exposing their secrets. Bradley has made a fortune selling DVDs and hosting television specials (and how ironic is it that Morgan Freeman plays a character whose work is actually narrated by Morgan Freeman). Rhodes, Dray and Bradley attempt to join forces but, as Atlas has informed them, the Four Horseman are always two steps ahead of them.
Director Leterrier proved himself a fine action director with “The Transporter” and did more with “The Incredible Hulk” then Ang Lee could. That being said, I absolutely despised his remake of “Clash of the Titans.” Here he is back in top form, perfectly meshing the on-screen antics of his magicians with a true “who done it” mystery. He is helped out by a top notch screenplay that doesn’t rely on a few petty tricks to advance the story. The pace slows a little as it builds to the pay off, but not enough for the viewer to lose interest. The characters are fleshed out with each one given their own identity. It also helps to have a first rate cast, including Oscar winners Caine and Freeman and Oscar nominees Eisenberg and Harrelson. Even those without “Oscar” near their name perform well. And the illusions, as presented, are spectacular. If you don’t believe me, pay attention to the first card trick Eisenberg does in the film, a random “pick a card, any card” routine. You’ll probably be as surprised as I was when he picks YOUR card. Yes, the random card this guy (me) in the audience picked was the one he pulled. Like I said, you can’t go wrong with magic done right.