Now You See Me

wogma rating: Watch when on TV/online (?)

quick review:

Directed by Louis Leterrier and co-written by Boaz Yakin, Now You See Me deceives you more often than it should, and doesn’t offer you quite enough in return. Despite an ensemble cast and a superb (and largely original) premise, the film runs out of genuine tricks a tad too early. Watchable enough, though you might see through the illusions far earlier than they want you to.

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Director: Louis Leterrier
Running time: 115 minutes
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This article is by guest author Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.

If there’s one thing that one just has to grant the makers of Now You See Me, it is the fact that it seems like such a rarity these days to get a big, star-studded, concept flick that isn’t a sequel, reboot, remake or adaptation. That isn’t to say that Now You See Me has very much going for it apart from this. Despite a hooking premise and a palpable sense of tension that it creates by always seeming to have one last trick up its sleeve, the film runs out of steam by overplaying its hand a tad too often.

With its foot on the pedal from the word go, the film introduces us to four different street magicians who are all united by a mysterious hooded figure for a larger purpose; the Four Horsemen, as they are then called, begin pulling off a series of grand illusions, with the continuous promise of coming back for the grandest deception of them all.

Building up on sleight-of-hand tricks that we’ve seen ever so often (inspired from those by illusionist David Copperfield), the film coasts breezily along because of the mystery that it manages to evoke right from its initial frames. As one character after another is introduced, the proceedings begin to gain momentum, succeeding at least initially, in having you hooked.

However, you know things are bound to go south when the film never eases up on the twists and turns, except for when it goes off on to a predictably cumbersome almost-romantic track between Mélanie Laurent and Mark Ruffalo, who play Interpol and FBI agents respectively, both of whom are hot on the trail of the Four Horsemen. The film comes a cropper in its last act, when all of the build up, the deception and the grand journey leading up the climax - the prestige, if you will – turns out to be a bit of a damp squib, with the final few twists being predictable from a mile away.

Also, the film has to be one of most miscast films in recent times, with some terrific actors playing bit roles that didn’t deserve them, and which they could have played in their sleep. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in particular, have particularly thankless roles. Even the characters played by Laurent and Ruffalo, for that matter, could have just as easily been played by anyone else. Having said that, both of them play their parts expectedly well.

The Four Horsemen, played by Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco, do manage to pull off their characters fairly well. Eisenberg, in particular, seems to be a chameleon; I didn’t think he could portray the suave, confident magician with the ease that he did. Fisher looks great, Harrelson is quirky as always, and Dave Franco seems a little rough around the edges, but he manages to hold fort.

My biggest problem with the film, however, is how it misuses the audio-visual medium in an attempt to throw viewers off track from where it is heading, before rudely jerking them back with a twist out of the blue. Common tradecraft in big Indian as well as American films, where the fact that you can ‘show’ viewers something is misused blatantly by showing them something that doesn’t really exist or by twisting the intent of the visual, to confuse them. (Think of all those times a character has turned his back on others in the scene to give a ‘mysterious’ expression that only the audience can see, only to never be referred to again in the film, or later explained away with some unconvincing bit of back story.)

This film literally derives its trickery from this concept. Alfred Hitchcock’s favourite term, ‘MacGuffin’, used to describe this device, sounds innocuous enough, but is something that I’ve personally had a problem with if not achieved cinematically. Now You See Me is pretty much one grand MacGuffin after another, shamelessly used throughout the film (and not to very good effect, I might add, if I could still spot some of the twists way before they even revealed that a twist was coming).

Despite these hiccups that pepper the film, Now You See Me isn’t really unwatchable, because of a premise that genuinely held potential and a few moments that do make you sit up and wonder. If you don’t mind being played for a while and deceived more often than you’ll remember once the film is done, then you might just have some guilty fun. Otherwise, I suggest you wait for the film to come out on satellite or DVD, and go back to the 307th word of this review, for a film that I’d recommend instead.

This article is by guest author Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.

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4 readers - 1 yays 3 so-so 0 nays

Want to Watch, by Now You See Me 2013 movie

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Fan

So-So, by Anup : Just For passing time with some genuine thrill....

So-So, by Nishant Wadhwa : Watch it with little expectations.

So-So, by Samir : Now you see me doing things I'll deny later.

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: A few action scenes but no violence
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: Four street magicians are brought together for a grand deception
  • General Look and Feel: Looks edgy, yet slick

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Direction:
Story:
Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Dialogues:
Screenplay:
Music Director:
Lyrics:

Now You See Me - Cast, crew, links

Official Sites:
Music Director:
Running time:
115 minutes
Reviewer:
Language:
Country:
USA

Comments (7)

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Samir

Wonderful review. A film where characters seem to be doing stuff for the sole purpose of misleading the audience for the final reveal. Too smart for its own good! Unlike the last two 'Magic' based films 'The Prestige' and 'The Illusionist' this one doesn't induce you to take the leap of faith that is necessary to the enjoyment of such a film.

@Samir: Thank you for the feedback on the review. Yes, you hit the nail on the head there. The film just does not induce you to take that leap of faith. Also, I hope you spotted my reference to one of the films you mentioned in the last line of my review. :-)

Nishant Wadhwa

The way the movie starts you cant help but imagine the ending and the execution to be like Oceans Eleven. And with the cast it had, something better could have been achieved instead halfway through the movie you feel the lack of depth in the story and the ending is really nothing to write about.

Lets just say the three major acts of the movie if done in reverse order would have been a more satisfying ending as I feel that the best act of the movie gets over well before the first half. After that the movie just tries to live up to that but fails badly.

Anup

The really long review,,,,
The movies tried too hard to trick us,,,,and produced some genuine thrill but not more then that,,,,some decent performance entertain u ,, but u will feel that many questions remain unanwered ....
But it do raises ur interest for the sequal....

Fan

I watched this film on the first weekend. It was too irresistible with the ensemble cast and the promos. It is one of the Hollywood films that is easily transposable into a Hindi film. Surprise then that no remake (official or otherwise) was attempted.

The film failed heavily on the expectation part. From the 3 tricks that are shown in details, I found that the order of presenting them was totally reversed. The best trick was shown first. And the least best trick was saved for the last. This does not work for me because typically i expect a good piece of fiction (movie, book, theatre, ...) to build up the climax. Thus if we start with something at a certain level then I expect that what follows will be of an even better calibre. Especially the climax. But finding exactly the opposite reduced the entertainment quotient for me.

If the same film is remade by just inversing the order of the tricks then it would be a super duper hit.

@Nishant @Fan Interesting. Didn't think of it that way, though like you I did find the climax anti-climatic.

Fan

Now You See Me 2:

Sequels more often than not are dull affairs. Trying to repeat everything that made the original a success, but in the process making the sequel a painful watch. But once in a while a sequel comes along that builds up on the original and takes it to a higher level. Now you see me 2 falls in the latter category. It entertains, and how.

Viewers of Hindi films can be pardoned if they feel in the first 2 minutes of the story that it is a ripoff of Dhoom3. Into the 3rd minute and beyond one would realise that all resemblance was pure coincidence.

The sequel takes you from New York to Macau (China) to London. The shift from New York to Macau is slickly executed, and convincingly explained.

The illusions are first rate, fast paced and accompanied with adrenaline pumping rythm. There is a continuity from the original and hence highly recommended to be aware of the key characters and their relations.

The makers seem to have learnt from the previous effort. The illusions that are part of the climax are rightly built up. Having said that, it was a bit predictable for me as they have a set pattern. But nice.

The star cast is reinforced by Daniel Harry Potter Radcliffe who is the main antagonist this time. He does do a good act as the baddie.

Overall an engaging fast paced globe trotting and entertaining sequel.

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