MRR Review: "Now You See Me"

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An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money. How are they able to pull off such incredible feats? Perhaps it is more than an illusion.
3.5

MRR Review: "Now You See Me"

-- Rating: PG-13 (language, some action, sexual content)
Length: 115 minutes
Release Date: May 31, 2013
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Genre: Crime/Thriller

Heist capers are generally deliciously fun movies to watch because they are usually quite clever, even if a bit unrealistic. Movies that involve magic are often enjoyable for the same reasons, which is why "Now You See Me" is such a good movie. It combines both of these genres in a slick, sly film that will leave audience members guessing what the end game is until the final, thrilling act.

Las Vegas features plenty of magic shows, but the show of a team dubbed the Four Horseman is the biggest hit on the strip. Each of the Horsemen has a very specific set of skills that helps make the team greater than the sum of its parts. There is J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), who is a sleight of hand artist who acts as a sort of leader of the group. He is joined by escape artist and all-around risk-taker Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher); Jack (Dave Franco), who can pick almost anyone's pocket; and mentalist Merritt (Woody Harrelson), who can get inside someone's head to get the info he needs. The group was brought together by a shadowy figure who is akin to Charlie, the voice coming out of the speaker on "Charlie's Angels."

The action starts when it is revealed that the Horsemen are pulling off actual heists as a part of their act. This leads to some big scrutiny from Agent Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) of the FBI, along with Agent Dray (Melanie Laurent) from Interpol. The two unlikely partners come together to try to arrest the group, but they keep getting outsmarted. The Horsemen manage to stay a step or two ahead of Rhodes and Dray for most of the movie, but their luck can't last forever. Also hot on their tail is Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a magic debunker who is desperately trying to figure out what kind of sleight of hand the team is using to pull off the heists. When the team's next target becomes billionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), who funds their stage show, they may have finally bitten off more than they can chew.

The acting is great across the board. Eisenberg is a particular standout, doing some of his best work since he was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network." Fisher also turns in a great performance, managing to stand out as one of only two females with significant screen time in a sea of men. Even as the younger actors do well in the film, the best performances are from veterans Freeman and Caine. Each of them has a certain gravitas that they bring to the proceedings, especially when their characters butt heads later in the film. When both of them appear together onscreen, it is almost like watching an acting class taking place.

The filming of a movie filled with magic and illusions is no easy task, but Director Louis Leterrier pulls it off. He employs lots of hand-held cameras to give the film a feeling of being in constant motion, even when the actors remain relatively still. It is a fairly basic trick that doesn't often get used in big-budget films, so it is a nice surprise to see it used here. Leterrier also uses a little bit of computer-generated imagery (CGI) with special effects to show some of the magic tricks, which gives the audience the illusion that they know what is going on, even as the wool is being pulled over their eyes. All of these tricks are used to great effect and not only add to the plot, but the audience's overall enjoyment of the film.

Leterrier had previously directed big action films like "The Incredible Hulk," "The Transporter," and "Transporter 2." Each of those films has lots of explosions and action sequences, with the latter two practically being defined by those scenes. For "Now You See Me," he had to dial back his usual tendency toward explosives in order to deliver a film that is much quieter in tone and slower in pace than his previous efforts. He manages to do this so well that viewers would probably never guess the director of this film also directed "The Transporter." That doesn't mean there aren't some very satisfying action sequences in this film, just not nearly as many as the director's fans might expect. The fact that Leterrier can deliver a slower, more deliberate film that is no less thrilling than an action film bodes well for his future as a film director. It also bodes well for those who choose to pony up their money to buy a ticket to "Now You See Me," which is arguably his best picture to date.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5