They say a good magician never reveals their tricks. Well, such a notion is one painfully dismissed in Louis Leterrier’s unrelenting crime thriller Now You See Me, a picture that lays all of its cards on the table, only to uncover one or two jokers in the pack.
When a collection of four aspiring magicians J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are brought together by a mysterious individual, they unite to create the Four Horseman, revelling in the media attention surrounding their daring and unexplainable magic stunts. However following a trick whereby they rob a bank in Paris – they catch the unwanted attention of FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and colleague Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent), as a dangerous game of cat and mouse transpires; a game that springs many surprises along the way.
If there is one aspect to Now You See Me that you simply can’t fault, it’s the entertainment value on offer, as the audience are taken on a ride along with the hapless pair of law enforcement officers, all of us equally unaware of exactly how the this seemingly nonchalant collective are committing such grandiose crimes in the name of magic. Although trashy at times, Now You See Me is relentlessly good fun, keeping the audience completely captivated right up until the bitter end, as we desperately try to figure out how this picture may conclude.
Unfortunately, however, it is the very conclusion that completely lets this title down, and given the nature of this film – one that builds up dramatically to the finale – there are simply no excuses for offering such a lacklustre and anticlimactic ending. Due to the intricate story and the excessive narrative at hand, it was always going to be an immensely challenging task to tie this story together triumphantly, which begs the question; why bother?
Now You See Me is effectively one long magic trick, and we don’t need to discover how it all works, as this defeats the object somewhat. Given the immoderate and surrealistic nature of this film, combined with the prevalent theme of magic, Leterrier has earned himself the right not to have to tie up all loose ends. However instead we are mistreated to an ending so convoluted it simply devalues what came before. It’s not often this is the case, but perhaps an air of ambiguity would be preferable, because to an extent we are actually better off without clarity.
In the meantime, the stellar cast - which also includes Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine – ensure that this tantalising story is brought to life, with both Ruffalo and Laurent sharing the majority of the finest scenes. The one performer who seems out of place however is Eisenberg, who fails to be truly believable as our charismatic lead. In the past this young actor has excelled in roles somewhat more inadequate and endearing, masterfully depicting the diffident intellectual in the likes of The Social Network and Zombieland. He simply doesn’t seem naturally at home with this confident and obnoxious role, resulting in a handful of cringeworthy sequences.
That aside, Now You See Me is certainly good value for money, and although bearing a disappointing end, everything that comes before is exciting and enjoyable to say the least. Pick a film, any film, to see this summer for good entertainment value, and you can’t go far wrong with this one.