Thursday, February 27, 2014

Morgan Freeman Week: Now You See Me

Morgan Freeman Week continues...

Directed by Louis Letterier.
2013. Rated PG-13, 115 minutes.
Melanie Laurent
Michael Kelly
Elias Koteas

A quartet of magicians manages to really do the impossible. Daniel (Eisenberg), Henley (Fisher), Merritt (Harrelson), and Jack (Franco) are putting on a huge Las Vegas magic show. They pluck an unsuspecting man from the audience and make him disappear. That's not the trick. The trick is that the man reappears in a bank vault in Paris. When they zap him back to Vegas, all the money in the vault comes with him. Both the FBI and Interpol are quite interested in figuring out how they really robbed a bank on another continent. Working the case are Agent Rhodes (Ruffalo) for the former and Agent Dray (Laurent) for the latter. Also after our heroes is Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman), a former magician who now makes a living exposing trade secrets.

Now You See Me is an insanely watchable movie. It captures our interest early and clinches it tight. Truth is, whether we admit it or not, all of us like to see a good magic trick. When we see one, we immediately try to figure out how it was done. This is the key to the film's intrigue. It repeatedly puts us in the position of bewildered yet fascinated spectator. This spills over from the stage show of our would be heroes into their cat-and-mouse with the law. As a result, the plot moves at a brisk pace while we try to keep up. It's not that the plot is terribly intricate or complex in any way. Our minds are just pre-occupied with the 'how' of what we just saw.

Eventually, the movie has to give us some answers. This is where the problems start. The process of elimination will likely give you the answer to the most pressing question. That question is not how, but who. You can follow that up with why. The answer is unsatisfactory in either case. Scrutinizing things only makes it fall apart even more. Still other things can only be explained by the term "movie magic." We get the same feeling of disappointment Dorothy had after her first peek at the man behind the curtain in the land of Oz.

Of course, if all the big reveals work for you then just ignore the entire previous paragraph. You'll sing its praises and possibly fling around words like 'brilliant' and 'genius.' Though I disagree, I wouldn't even dream of trying to dissuade you. It does take some serious ingenuity to keep up the various ruses as long as it does. And like I said, it is fun to watch as it rolls along. If you haven't seen it, be prepared. The movie may make or break itself during those last few scenes.


  1. I'm fine with a movie twisting me all around to keep its story interesting, but it has to be done in a non-manipulative, understandable way to fully keep me happy. That did not happen here. Good review Wendell.

    1. Ah yes, manipulative is the perfect word to describe it.