J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are magicians operating with limited success in their chosen fields. A mysterious stranger brings them together to form The Four Horsemen; a super group of magicians and illusionists, with a mission for justice.
With that synopsis, it seems that Now You See Me should be set in a Marvel universe somewhere, but the film is definitely supposed to be grounded in our reality, which it succeeds at being, for the most part. The cast is made up of some of the best actors working today, but the trouble is that the twists are somewhat predictable, and Now You See Me is not quite as clever as it thinks it is.
In terms of the actors; Jesse Eisenberg plays a character so arrogant that it is hard to find anything redeemable about him, although Eisenberg manages to keep this up throughout the whole film, which is no mean feat. Isla Fisher is pretty much just the feisty arm candy, Woody Harrelson brings the sarcasm and Dave Franco brings the frustration. This is not a film that hinges on the performances from the central cast, but what they do, they do well. Elsewhere, Morgan Freeman plays the smug investigator, Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent form a balanced police double act and Michael Caine shouts a bit.
Now You See Me is a film that relies on the story to carry the huge and varied cast; rather like Ocean’s Eleven did. The trouble is that the script for this film is nowhere near as slick or as clever as that of Ocean’s Eleven, and the avenging angel story wears thin after a while, especially with so many questions deliberately ‘unanswered’, but easily guessed. Now You See Me is a film that tries to be smart and slick, but while the visuals and some of the fight sequences are great, the film is not quite as smart as it would like to be and the twists can be seen coming a mile off. As well as this, since Now You See Me is supposed to be set in ‘our’ world, some of the magic tricks require a lot of patience from the audience in order for them to work.
Director Louis Leterrier has had a patchy career so far, but this is arguably his strongest work yet. The cast work well together, but the height that the audience is asked to suspend their disbelief at is rather too high.
In all, Now You See Me is a film that boasts an impressive cast, some clever dialogue and some slick visuals. It is, however, let down with an overly complicated but easily guessed storyline and the feeling that the elements of mystery and fun are missing here.