…But not in this movie. This movie may be about magic, but that magic is lost in all the explanation, which never really explains anything. A thriller about magicians, Now you see me is mostly style, little substance, and misses the point of its own philosophy. Like Inception, the movie presents itself as complex in order to make us think it’s brilliant!, when really it is very simple.
The film is produced by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writing team behind blockbusters like Transformers, The Island, and Star Trek. They try to present an intelligent, complicated mystery, but it really has all the depth of Revenge of the fallen. Helping the film are the writers, Ed Solomon and Boaz Yakin, who have some clever creative credits between them, like Men in Black, Bill and Ted, and Fresh, along with Ed Ricourt, a first-time screenwriter. So the movie engages you in the beginning, from the opening introduction of the magicians through the initial interrogation scenes. The movie crackles with energy most when it’s the magicians against the world. Then by the middle, the movie has fallen into a “see what happens, explain what really happened” rhythm that gets a little tiring. Plot points are dropped, like the bank robbery that ignites the story. Towards the end some tricks reach the brink of implausible. The twist at the end is not a satisfying pay off, not reaching the level of a Shyamalan thriller, or even Ed Norton in Primal Fear. Actually, it’s kinda lame and feels just put there. The lead up to it and motivation both seem manufactured and therefore not strong enough to get our reaction. The script masquerades as tight, and tries, or rather, pretends to be tight, but is in fact, very loose.
The theme and concept of the movie are two tenets of Magician technique: misdirection, and for the audience to look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see. The filmmakers try to adapt these concepts in the film’s visual style, but it doesn’t quite translate as a story telling style. The director, Louis Leterrier, whose credits include Clash of the Titans and The Transporter, uses a lot of quick camera movement and editing to complement the ideas, to give us the feeling of flashy misdirection, so we can’t look closely. This is disorienting, and expertly obscures the narrative flaws. But it is disorienting, not fun and is another tiring rhythm. Also, the idea of magic on screen is difficult to accept in this age because anything can be done with visual effects, and so you can’t fully believe that they are performing real magic, knowing that there were about 50 visual FX houses working on it. It takes some of the mystery and thrill from the film.
Which leaves the performances. The best part, of course. The magicians' relationships, with each other and with the outside world, is the most interesting element of the film. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg are awesome, as always, immensely entertaining, with the best lines of the film. More of them would have benefited the movie. Isla Fisher, who is a “blink and you’ll think she’s Amy Adams”, is pretty fierce in this movie. Her presence is enjoyable. Dave Franco, that’s right, James Franco’s brother, doesn’t leave much of an impression as the youngest amateur of the group. Mark Ruffalo is boring as always. And Morgan Freeman is cool like Morgan Freeman is every time.
All in all, Now you see me is, in a way, like the magicians' philosophy: “The closer you look, the less you actually see”. Granted, I’m an American, and we have different movie going habits, but Quentin Tarantino says he is quitting film making because theater attendance has become “television in public”. And sure enough, the audience was talking out loud throughout the movie and checking their phones, so I may have missed some details of the explanations. But then again, so did the rest of the audience. Maybe you will see it, maybe you won’t. They try too hard to prove the theme throughout the film. A screen writer is kind of like a magician, you have to use tricks to mislead the audience, to surprise them, and this movie is no Houdini. Except for the USD 80 million it has made disappear from audiences wallets.
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Directed By Louis Leterrier; On at: Brasov- Cityplex Brasov; Bucharest – Grand Cinema Digiplex, Hollywood Multiplex, Movieplex Cinema Plaza, The Light Cinema, Cinema City Cotroceni, Cinema City Sun Plaza, CinemaPRO; Cluj – Cinema City, Florin Piersic Cinema; Constanta – Cityplex, Cinema City; Iasi – Cinema City; Targu Mures – Arta 3D, Cinema City; Timisoara – Cinema City; Oradea – Cortina Digiplex, Cinema Palace; Ploiesti – Cinema City, Premiera; Craiova – Patria, 3D Colours Cinema; Pitesti – Cinema City; Ramnicu Valcea -Otroveni; Arad – Cinema City, Cinema City Galleria; Baia Mare – Cinema City; Satu Mare – GM Cinema 3D; Braila – Cinema City; Bacau – Cinema City; Tulcea – Cityplex; Targu Jiu – Sergiu Nicolaescu
By James Longshore, guest writer