The most purely entertaining movie of the year so far is “Now You See Me,” and like all great magic tricks, it makes us delighted to be fooled. We are warned from the very beginning that the closer we look, the less we will see, but even on the alert for the magician’s tools of misdirection and mirrors, it keeps us happily guessing until the very last second. We might suspect the why, but the who and the how are another story. One of the magicians tells us that stage magic is deception designed to entertain, delight, and inspire, and that’s just what this movie does.
Four magicians with four very different styles, all very independent, rather arrogant, and very competitive but none at the top of their field are brought together in a most mysterious manner, and the next thing we know, they are headlining in a huge arena sponsored by a multi-millionaire named Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). The master of close-up magic and card tricks is J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg). Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is the specialist at hypnosis (and post-hypnotic suggestion). Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) is an escape artist. And Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is a pickpocket and locksmith. The very fine line between trickery and outright con is crossed now and then as we meet our heroes, or possibly, anti-heroes.
In their big, bravura, very polished show, they announce they are going to rob a bank where someone in the audience has an account. The man they select at random(?) is French. Is that a setback? Au contraire! The next thing we see or think we see is the Frenchman magically transported to Paris, inside the bank’s safe — just as it is about to open for business because Paris is seven hours ahead. And then, the money appears, and the magicians generously distribute it to the audience.
A French agent from Interpol (Mélanie Laurant of “Beginners” as Alma Dray — names are not this movie’s strong point) and a cranky agent from the FBI (is there any other kind?) named Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) team up to investigate. A professional debunker of magicians (a la The Amazing Randi) played by Morgan Freeman provides some guidance — or is that just more misdirection?
It would be wrong to say any more. Just go see it to enjoy the tricks and the great performances and directions that are real movie magic.
Parents should know that this movie includes some strong language (a crude insult, f-word), characters in peril, drinking, and sexual references and a sexual situation.
Family discussion: What clues did you miss? Which kind of magic would you like to be able to do?
If you like this, try: “The Illusionist” and “Oceans 11”