Now You See Me
Posted May 31, 2013 by Daniel Hodgson in
Silent Hill sits on the same shelf as my DVDs of Le Samourai and Man With a Movie Camera. Before the weekend is over, I’ll go to my collection and pop a favorite into the player, something to remind me that movies can be thought-provoking, or at least entertaining. A great movie can do both. Now You See Me does neither.
It is loud, hollow, and obnoxious. The set pieces overwhelm the actors with the force of a tsunami. The score is big and insistent, when it should be enchanting us, bringing us under the movie’s spell. The camera-work and cutting are busy and aggressive—it looks like a Michael Bay knock-off with fewer explosions. Ilsa Fisher is the babe in this movie. Ditto Mélanie Laurent. That’s not a comment on their capabilities as thespians. They simply have nothing to do here. Ditto the rest of the cast.
The story is in service of the set pieces and genre conventions. Four magicians, an illusionist (Jesse Eisenberg), an escape artist (Ilsa Fisher), a mentalist (Woody Harrelson), and a rookie street performer (Dave Franco) team up to rob banks miles away right before the audiences’ eyes, using stage illusions and magic tricks. An FBI Agent (Mark Ruffalo) and an INTERPOL agent (Mélanie Laurent) team up to stop The Four Horseman, as the troupe call themselves. The agents consult with Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a debunker of magicians.
“He’s making you guys look like idiots,” Bradley tells them, and that is exactly why Now You See Me is so painfully boring.
Now, let me compare this to Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (spoilers for that film). What made Ghost Protocol so exciting wasn’t the gadgets, but that none of the gadgets fucking worked! Nothing went according to plan, and the team constantly had to improvise. On the other hand, everything goes according to plan in Now You See Me. The agents do look like idiots. It’s supposed to be fun watching the troupe steam roll them. But it’s not. It’s tedious. I slumped in my chair at the climax, the part where I should have been on the edge of my seat.
Now You See Me is typical of a summer film. It’s all star-power, spectacle, and special-effects, but it has the screenplay of a January potboiler. The big reveal at the end is predictable. It’s supposed to make us care about what’s happened up till then, but it’s after the fact—much too little, and far too late.
Not even intermittent narration by Morgan Freeman can save this disaster. Jesse Eisenberg’s haircut suits his face in this movie. That’s all I can say for it.