Magical Thinking

Now You See Me: written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yachin, and Edward Ricourt; directed by Louis Leterrier; starring Jesse Eisenberg (J. Daniel Atlas), Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt McKinney), Isla Fisher (Henley Reeves), Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), Melanie Laurent (Alma Dray), Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley), and Michael Caine (Arthur Tressler) (2013):

Surprisingly enjoyable heist film involving four magicians of the prestigitation variety, a possibly imaginary secret society, the FBI, Interpol, and two unpleasant old men played by Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. Harrelson, Eisenberg, Fisher, and Franco play the Four Horsemen, a new Vegas act that becomes (in)famous by design as they seemingly pull off an impossible bank heist in France while performing on-stage in Vegas. And then things get more complicated.

The actors are all perfectly fine, and Eisenberg’s performance here, as a super-arrogant nerd, suggests that Lex Luthor may be fine in his hands. Morgan Freeman’s debunking character doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense — I know of a lot of people who debunk psychics and faith healers in the media, but none who debunk magicians. So the movie takes place in a somewhat odd alternate universe. Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent are charming as the pursuing FBI and Interpol agents, respectively.

Do all the twists and turns make sense? No, not exactly, but in a heist film that’s also a magical puzzle-box (more Sleuth than The Prestige, though it does share some attributes with the fine Edward Norton/Paul Giamatti vehicle The Illusionist), these problems are almost inevitable. One just has to assume a level of hyper-competence and luck that the heroes of straightforward action movies are habitually accorded. Recommended.

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