There has always been something special about magic, going as far as the wizards and sorcery, often even into necromancy summoning the apparitions or even the living corpses from the grave. That should be black magic or witchcraft, and Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus had the hero ending up giving his soul for it in not that romantic a way as in the movie Bedazzled. One can’t really abandon Goethe’s Faust in that case. But this movie has none of these deals with Mephistopheles, Lucifer, or Belzebub, and neither does it have walking dead, nor does it lead you to Hogwarts or to Narnia as the lord of a particular, incredibly powerful ring which will change your life in that fairy tale style. This is magic purely of this world, and connected to a crime as an engaging, powerful thriller. Magic has always been a thing arousing curiosity among the common cats of the world, but none of them stays killed or dead as part of it. Magic shows still have some of its essence which still affects the minds of the common man over his mundane existence, for being able to manipulate and create illusions still have that mysterious charm for the unexplained, no matter how much science and technology and the reason has improved. One needs to see how this movie has managed to do nothing special and still manages to be special!
But it is not yet a magic movie, or something which takes you to a magical environment like Harry Potter, Narnia or Lord of the Rings, and there are no goblins, hobbits, dwarves or elves, and this one is the story of tricks, illusions and deception, which doesn’t really make it of lesser quality. This is more of that magic which is closer to reality and the real world, and it is a caper movie – a crime fiction supported by magic; and it is Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen all of them explored with the support of magic provided in the right manner. If you loved Tower Heist and Entrapment, there is no option not to like this one, as there are the additions which you can’t reject. The focus of the story is still magic, and the four magicians who performs it not for money or for entertainment, but for a greater cause. There are thefts, and there are police, FBI and even Interpol involved in this heist movie, but what forms the base of all this is still magic, not as the fantasy and the mythological wonder that attracts the generations starting from kids, this one is more of that thriller which keeps you at the edge of your seats. The world of these magicians are more than what meets the eye, and therefore you see me at one moment and then you don’t, and for now you watch what is justified by the title Now You See Me!
We have to start by introducing our wonderful protagonists of deception; the four magicians—Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) the illusionist, Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) the escape artist and former assistant of Daniel, Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) the street magician and master thief along with Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) the mentalist specialized in mind-reading abilities —are brought together by a mysterious benefactor who is shown only as a man in a hood and, one year later, they have a performance in Las Vegas identifying themselves as “The Four Horsemen” and is sponsored by a billionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). During their first grand performance, the magicians invite a random member of the audience to help them in their next trick which is the first of its kind to be ever performed on stage, that is robbing a bank. The man is teleported to his bank in Paris, where he activates an airduct which vacuums up the money which brough down from the top onto their audience in the venue at Las Vegas. It is a bank in Paris that they are supposed to have robbed, and how they have done that to an institution in France from a location in the United States would remain a mystery to many.
FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) investigates the theft and is unwillingly partnered with Interpol Agent Alma Vargas (Melanie Laurent). They interrogate the Four Horsemen, but are forced to release them when no explanation for the theft can be found other than magic. The magicianis even taunt them and says that if they charge them as criminals, it means that their magic is real and that adds to their popularity. Dylan then meets a man who was present during the show and had video-taped the whole thing, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). He is known to be an former magician who makes money by revealing the secrets behind other magicians’ tricks and have his fun with it. He tells them that the magicians had stolen the money long ago, and manipulated the audience as well as the police with their tricks and illusions into believing it happened at the moment of their show. He even shows a sample to Dylan after they have a look at the “site of the crime and the magic show”. He adds that the whole thing might have planned for months or even years and the group is up to something big and what was seen in Las Vegas was just the first of the samples.
The three of them attend the magicians’ next performance which is in New Orleans during the festival of Mardi Gras. The group’s manages a number of magic tricks including disappearing acts, floating in a bubble and even predicting the bank accounts of random people among the audience. Their last item involved them emptying their own sponsor’s bank account and distributing it to the audience, which had a good number of people whose insurance claims had been denied or reduced by Tressler’s insurance company in the name of a variety of reasons. The agents make an attempt to arrest the magicians, but they fails and even humiliates themselves, and becomes the breaking news in most of the television channels. Arthur hires Thaddeus to expose the fake tricks of the magicians and humiliate them before the public as revenge. Later, while researching on magic and the history of the world of illusions, Alma comes across the information about a secret society of magicians called “The Eye”, which exists unknown to the contemporary society of common man, and remains a myth. But if such a thing existed, the robberies were more of a test or initiation. She even suggests that the case might be connected to a magician whom Thaddeus had earlier exposed; the man was so embarrassed and depressed that he attempted a dangerous underwater stunt to prove his worth and drowned. Meanwhile, the Four Horsemen plan a final performance at New York City, which would decide many things.
Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco steal the show as the four horsemen who entertains not only the audience inside the movie, but also those outside with not only the thrills, but also the funny lines. They don’t really connect to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation directly with Conquest, War, Famine and Death, even as they do bring a disclosure, an uncovering which might come up more clearly in a possible sequel, as there is the concept of “The Eye” to add to it. I would suspect not only an upcoming apocalypse, but also a final judgement. It is stylish and also sure fun, and its use of CGI has been real appropriate as well as inspiring. Melanie Laurent has come a long way since Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, and successfully portrays her suspicious character and so does Morgan Freeman whose character remains in doubt of being the fifth horseman. Isla Fisher’s character has that charm which is matched only by Jesse Eisenberg’s illusionist. Forget Bruce Banner a.k.a The Hulk of The Avengers, for this should be his better or may be among the best performances, as he seems to have that balance in his character about which only the Hulk can have doubts. There might be the need for a little more explanation in case of the logic freaks, but the movie had a well-deserved clap from the audience in the multiplex after it finished, something which was this loud only with The Dark Knight Rises.
As the options at the theatre are considered, this would seem to be a clear winner at least at this part of the world. After Earth has been bulldozed by the critics as well as the viewers as far as the rottentomatoes and imdb ratings are concerned, and there are only a few shows of the movie around here, which opens that door for Now You See Me which might have been seemed locked before its release here. I would still like to watch the critically panned movie as I won’t trust them on my individual taste, even as there might be nobody to accompany me. Now You See Me has had its share of appreciation in the theatre itself, and I would expect it to bring more audience by the word of mouth, that passing of this magic, and more seats would be full even with a less known cast for the common man of the Indian subcontinent despite of the Will Smith – Jaden Smith power and the power-packed Bollywood releases which take hold of most of the shows along with its wonderful Malayalam counterparts; not to forget Hangover III, Fast & Furious 6 and Iron Man III, all three of those crowd-puller which have refused to go away from the big screens of the malls around here. I would vote for this movie as of now, as I consider this the best of the year 2013 so far, edging ahead of Star Trek: Into Darkness and Fast & Furious 6.
Release date: 7th June 2013 (India); 13th May 2013 (USA)
Running time: 115 minutes
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Mélanie Laurent, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.