There's something hard to swallow
about the idea of a movie about magic. Sawing a woman in half or making a rabbit disappear may still tickle a live audience, but these feats lose their luster in film form. Perhaps that's why the CGI-heavy
Now You See Me
doesn't achieve the sense of wonderment it sets out to create. We are introduced to its four main characters individually in entertaining sequences a la
. J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), a kind of smart-mouthed, David Blaine-esque street illusionist leads a team comprising Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), a mentalist and con man; Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), a streetwise magician and thief; and Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Atlas' former assistant and a well-regarded escape artist. During each introductory sequence, the magicians are unknowingly slipped tarot cards by a hooded man which list merely a date, time, and address. Intrigued, the four magicians arrive at the address, only to find an empty apartment. Suddenly, in a cloud of smoke and laser projection, a mysterious plan—not divulged to the movie's audience—is outlined for the group. Flash-forward a year. The quartet is performing under the moniker the Four Horsemen in a high-end Vegas hotel. The now big-budget, showy magic troupe makes its debut in grand fashion by robbing a bank a continent away via a series of impressive illusions and magic tricks, ending the show by raining down millions of stolen Euros on its audience. The stunt immediately catches the attention of the world, including FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), French Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), and magic expert/reality-show host/curmudgeon Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who seeks to debunk the group. The cat-and-mouse game that follows is where the illusion begins to crack and the film begins to falter.
Now You See Me
is quite plot-heavy and when it loses its momentum, there is nothing to distract us from the implausible events, banal dialogue, and lack of character development. All of the actors are more than capable, and they do well with the material they're given, but it is simply not enough to save a thriller that isn't all that thrilling. There is little in the script that helps the audience relate to the characters or even understand their motivations for risking imprisonment beyond the sheer thrill of pulling the heists and the notoriety that accompanies such feats. It's hard to be on the edge of your seat when you don't care what happens.