Monday, 8 July 2013

Movie Review: Now You See Me

I love magic. And to me there is no greater film about magic than ‘The Prestige’. I also like heist movies. So imagine my intrigue when I discovered a film set specifically around heists performed with magic. Let's face it, ‘Now You See Me’ was never going to be as good as 'The Prestige' but could it at least provide a solid heist movie?

Four talented magicians unite under mysterious guidance to form a collective known as “The Four Horsemen”. The horsemen perform a trick that baffles both the audience and the law; with the help of an audience member they seemingly rob a bank. As an FBI agent seeks to arrest the horsemen for their illegal trick he quickly discovers that this was just one in a series of tricks the magicians have planned, all with an underlying motive waiting to be discovered.

There’s nothing remotely revolutionary about this story, it’s the classic caper film combined with some blockbuster elements from recent years and topped off with some magician elements. Don’t go in expecting to be blown away and you’ll find yourself an amusing 2 hours worth of content.

Be aware, this is sometimes what passes for "character depth" in this movie.

Jesse Eisenberg is rather impressive as the leader of the magic quartet, he shows he has good comedic timing coupled with his own strange mannerisms that give him that “quirky genius” feel as a character, despite this however Woody Harrelson is clearly the standout of the bunch thanks to his usual charm and talent for comedy. Isla Fisher’s character in particular seems very forced into the movie and doesn’t provide a great example of female characterisation in films, she’s really only there to add some romantic tension to the group and to get them closer to that symbolic fourth horseman. Dave Franco is instantly forgettable in the role he plays, I can’t decide if he had such poor scripting or if he actually did a bad job in the role but it certainly seems as if both are to blame. The great Michael Caine is oddly cast in such an underwritten role which provides the actor with little to do in the story whilst his ‘The Dark Knight’ cast mate Morgan Freeman fills the role of a character full of clichés. Rounding out the cast are Mark Ruffalo, who is very convincing as an increasingly frustrated detective and Melanie Laurent who pulls double duty as a capable character in her own right and as a pretty face.

‘Now You See Me’ is a high spectacle popcorn movie that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. It shoots for delivering entertainment rather than intrigue and succeeds because of it, if this movie had spent time trying to build up a real mystery of some sort then all the benefits attributed to it from its pacing would simply fade away. This is summer movie bombast running on all cylinders and providing an enjoyable story with a very capable cast. Unfortunately however, the cast's potential is hampered by a stunted script and some totally bogus logic that just makes the movie seem profoundly senseless at times.

For a movie like this, which almost smugly states its intention to captivate and fool the audience, it’s important that the audience actually end up being hoodwinked. ‘Now You See Me’ attempts this as best it can but it’s all too easy to sidestep its frankly simple misdirection and see the twists coming. The very fact that you can almost predict what’s going to happen at the end of the film from watching the first 45 minutes should be a hindrance to this supposedly cunning plot but it doesn’t really feel that way. You’re here not for the intelligent storytelling but for the utter “movieness” of the whole affair, and despite being able to peek behind the curtain of the film’s trickery you find yourself coming to terms with this and simply liking how the story is being told.

Always great to see Scooby-Doo and the gang back together.

A gripe I had with the plot is that the Four Horsemen essentially perform the same trick throughout the movie, there’s a definite formula to the trick they perform and they certainly stick to it with their onstage demonstrations throughout. The same goes for their offstage antics for the most part too. This lack of diversity at a core level fundamentally devalues these supposedly incredible magicians to simple one trick ponies, the trick you see at the beginning, whilst certainly framed differently, is the same trick at the end when you consider it for a while. Speaking of the ending, I probably should mention that this movie has one of the most convoluted “twists” I’ve seen in recent years. It is surprising to a point, but the more you think about it the more you realise how incongruent the whole thing is as part of the story that has already been told.

‘Now You See Me’ is great as a summer movie. Will it win any Oscars? No way. But does it deliver high-octane action and undemanding entertainment? Undeniably. If you walk in thinking you’re seeing ‘The Prestige 2’ then you will most certainly walk out after 10 minutes. But, if you just want 120 minutes to shut your brain off and watch some great actors and magic tricks, then you really can’t go wrong with ‘Now You See Me’

No comments:

Post a Comment