Louis LeTerrier delivers an Oceans 11 style caper flick in the world of David Copperfield celebrity magicians, infusing an unashamedly ludicrous plot with enough sparkle, sheen and high energy razzle dazzle that it totally entertains – if only until the credits roll. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco play a quartet of conjurors, contortionists and con artists who are brought together by a mysterious benefactor to become The Four Horsemen. Within a year they are the biggest act in Vegas, but their sell-out shows are merely a front for a series of high-stake bank robberies, pulled off in front of an adoring crowd.
When a Parisian bank is knocked off, an inexperienced French Interpol Agent (Melanie Laurent – Inglourious Basterds) enlists the help of Mark Ruffalo’s sceptical FBI man to help solve the case. At first they are flummoxed, until they approach Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman – who appears to have wandered in right off the street), a famed debunker of popular magicians. But as the plot unfolds, it becomes apparent that not everyone is who they appear to be and misdirection is the name of the game.
LeTerrier is not known as a director with subtlety and depth, and Now You See Me never pretends to be anything other than flashy and fun. His camera is constantly on the move, swooping past his actors, or spinning ferociously round them, as they perform their tricks or scratch their heads trying to solve them. This has none of the self-importance of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, but instead distracts its audience just long enough to pull off a single grand illusion.
Now You See Me has one great strength – its knockout cast – and LeTerrier wisely allows his performers all the exposure they need to delight the crowds. Woody Harrelson, who is enjoying something of a career revival thanks to The Hunger Games, is the best thing on display here, but he doesn’t hog the limelight, letting Eisenberg do his Mark Zuckerberg shtick, Isla Fisher shake her tail feather and even Dave Franco snatch a little attention as the precocious street urchin.
Michael Caine turns up to play multimillionaire mark for these bandits, while Ruffalo and Laurent bicker and flirt with each other when they’re not staring at empty bank vaults or learning trade secrets, always one step behind their oh-so-clever suspects. It will come as no surprise that Now You See Me is littered with red herrings, fake-outs and distractions as it speeds towards a last-minute reveal that is both satisfying yet logic-defying, were you to give it a moment’s thought.
Now You See Me works best, like all good magic tricks do, when you forget about trying to catch out the magician or see how it’s done and simply enjoy the spectacle and allow yourself to be fooled.