The fascination we have with magic is well played in Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me. Weaving together the skills of four magicians who have perfected various types of magic, “The Four Horsemen” use hypnosis, illusion, escape and slight-of-hand to create a show that is unparalleled. But what is clear is that this is not just about magic. Someone, somewhere, has brought them together to accomplish a greater purpose. What is not clear is why.
Based on a story written by Boaz Yakin (The Rookie) and Edward Ricourt and joined by screenwriter Ed Solomon (Men in Black), the tale is intricate and inventive. The unexpected twists and the exploration of the power of magic create a fascinating tale and suspenseful entertainment.
The four magicians are J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). At the first show of their combined skills, they rob a bank in Paris from their show in Vegas and find themselves pursued by law enforcement. The FBI agent who has specialized in the fraudulent behaviors of magicians is Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and the French Interpol agent pursuing the robbers of the French Bank is Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). Their relationship adds romantic tension to the tale.
What makes the film truly great is its interplay between debunking magic while creating a belief in an unbroken line of true magicians from ancient Egypt to modern times. This is done through Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) who is a spoiler of the illusionists’ art by revealing the magicians’ secrets. But it is clear that this is not the entire story. There is a larger force at work in the shows that implies a power beyond illusion or mental manipulations.
A well-told tale with intriguing characters and unexpected twists and turns that are nevertheless hinted at visually and thematically, the film is itself an illusion that does not rely on tricks of the camera but of mind and magic. It is a fascinating film of suspense that all will enjoy.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. At the beginning of the film, there is a card trick that plays both the mark in the film and the audience in the theater. Did you choose the card? How do you think the filmmakers did that?
2. The justice that the magicians accomplished creates a long-term vindication. Did you find this satisfying? Do you believe that revenge is ever appropriate? Why do you answer as you do?
3. Are there times in your own life where you put your trust in magical events? If so, why?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.