I wish I knew how to do magic. I think it would be a cool gift to have. My first trick would be to be to erase this film out of my head. Now You See Me is just pointless and unfortunately that is 115 minutes of my life I will never get back.
Where do I even begin? It’s something I’ve asked myself and I’m suddenly reminded of my first review I wrote for this blog, The Prestige and why it is my favourite Christopher Nolan film. I’m reminded of the complexity, the intricate little details that make the ultimate reveal so powerful and rewarding. The most important thing about The Prestige – it took its time, making sure every twist and turn was covered and explored.
With Now You See Me – you get none of that. Let me get that off my chest at least. The film is guilty of two major things – a wishy/washy plot with a twist that made no [bleep] sense and confusion on what this film was meant to achieve.
“When a magician waves his hand and says, “This is where the magic is happening.” The real trick is happening somewhere else. Misdirection.” – Thaddeus Bradley
Let me address the first issue, the plot. Magic is supposed to amaze us. It’s supposed to keep us guessing. While The Prestige takes it time to let the plot evolve into a terrific conclusion, Now You See Me has a weak plot with its so-called magical cleverness muddled up, disguised and dressed up with action sequences to distract us. But I wasn’t fooled. It explains the Four Horsemen’s first trick involving how they robbed a bank in Paris whilst performing in Vegas although it comes off more like Inception than any sense. However it completely abandons logic for the rest of the film and rushes through each scene/trick expecting the audience to simply pick it up. Because of this abandonment, every trick they pulled off tests your bullsh*t factor to the point where you think the twists (and the explanations to justify them) were just thrown in just for sake and the writers themselves had no idea how they did the trick in the first place. And that’s scary for a screenwriter!
- Near the end of the film, how did the Four Horsemen get a giant mirror into the area where the safe was essentially making everyone from the FBI think that the money/safe was missing but in actual fact the money was just hiding behind it? In a short space of time no less!
- Henley (Isla Fisher) in the bubble trick or any of the visual tricks that used CGI. What???
- Hypnosis being used as a convenience.
- The Katrina victims at the magic show – whilst the sentimentality of getting their money was noble (and right), but did anyone question whether they could actually keep it, considering they too were part of the trick and part of a criminal investigation? Surely some of them would have said to themselves, “this can’t be real?” or feel duped in some way. But hey, that’s magic – yay!
- Common and lazy but would a businessman (Tressler) be that stupid to leave his entire fortune for the magicians to hack it by asking him a few personal questions?
- One of the Four Horsemen fakes their death after leading the FBI (and an Interpol agent) on a wild goose chase along a highway. Yet this so called intricate plan where a car flips over and causes a road traffic accident is done with such precision that somehow they were fortunate that there were no civilian casualties when it easily could have gone wrong. They were performing this trick in an uncontrolled environment!
- The Four Horsemen coordinated all these elaborate tricks in the space of a year yet when committing their final triumph act, they stand around Times Square, New York watching themselves on all the screens knowing the FBI are still after them and that they’re in the most public place you could ever be!
- Or how about leaving their equipment of the Paris bank job on the stage so that the cops could investigate the trick? I thought the Pain & Gain criminals were dumb! No, no, wait, they still are…
Plenty of imagination yet no skill in making it believable. To use a common magic phrase – it pulled too many rabbits from the hat.
The second point – the film was confused at what it wanted to be. Was it trying to be smart? Was it meant to be cool? Or was it supposed to be an action led film? I don’t have an answer for that but not long after the film started I simply became bored by the lack of care and attention from the crap script that was clearly trying to find balance. Fruit Ninja on my phone was a godsend – it happily passed the time away.
“Let me warn you. I want you to follow, because no matter what you think you might know, we will always be one step, three steps- seven steps ahead of you, and just when you think you’re catching up, that’s when we’ll be right behind you. And at no time will you be anywhere other than exactly where I want you to be. So come close, get all over me because the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.” – J. Daniel Atlas
The talented ensemble cast must have seen something in this film. The script must have been ten times better than what I saw on screen because I think every single one of them was wasted. No that is not a trick, that is sadly the truth and they deserved better. The funny thing is, majority of them (two in particular) seemed to play characters from their previous films! Morgan Freeman (aka the voice of God) does his usual teacher, philosopher role, trying to narrate and explain how the Four Horsemen did their tricks – his brilliant voice masking a non-coherent script. Jesse Eisenberg – well if you’ve ever seen The Social Network, you know where that smug persona came from, almost like a carbon copy.
The truth is there is no development with these characters. In a plot riddled with clichés, the characters themselves perform clichéd acts that are more roundabout than conclusive. Their pseudo smart talk will mentally drive you round in circles because the audience is “not as clever” as this film suggests yet their motives change in every scene they’re in. None of the Four Horsemen magicians question the point of these tricks. What happened if they didn’t go along with the plan? They enjoyed the fame and attention but nothing else they did was meaningful except following the plan – whatever that was.
The twist itself – I can explain some twists, it’s one of my favourite things to do but I don’t have any words to explain this one. It was just poor script writing. All along, all the tricks by the Four Horsemen were just a “clever” prise for a revenge attack for a magician getting his own back regarding the circumstances with the death of his father. Now how did I miss that! I didn’t because with NO set up whatsoever, this twist comes out of the blue. It wasn’t thought out considering what this particular character had been doing throughout the entire movie. It will just leave you confused and baffled rather than amazed. Did the magician really need the Horsemen to help execute his flawed plan? He could have done the whole trick himself since he controlled everything! To add insult to injury, the script then forces the character and the Interpol agent to fall in love – why was this needed? What film was I watching? There was no justification for any of it.
Pure luck and chance – that is what this film was. Don’t be fooled, it tries to hoodwink you into thinking this is a hipster, cool magic film. But in reality it is lazy, lacks cohesion and any logical sense whilst acting smug in the process to explain the nonsense.
A poor film…now that is a trick that can’t be faked.