I believe the mark of a good movie is to deliver on it’s promise. This is probably a textbook comment but in recent times, a movie’s premise has shown a remarkable ability to be as slippery and impossible to keep hold of as The Road Runner, leaving us, the audience, in the increasingly irritable role of Wile E. Coyote. So when you come upon a movie that not only delivers on it’s promise but goes beyond it to stretch and grow, I think it’s natural to want to sit down and pull it apart at the seams to figure out why this one movie got it right when so many others failed.
However, I can’t do that with Now You See Me because this is a movie that surrounds itself in the charm and playful provocativeness of misdirection. I’m going to start off by thanking whatever marketing god that did this movie’s advertising because I’ve never seen anything stay this faithful to the actual premise of the movie in years. In a time where it’s become easier to show every card in the deck to attract everyone possible, the Now You See Me trailer tells us that the movie is going to send us running in every possible direction until it chooses to let us see what’s going on. In fact, this movie’s entire foundation is based upon the belief that we will want to see the tricks.
And oh, you do.
From the first slick card trick that acts as both narrative introduction and gentle, gentle exposition to the final disappearing act, you want to see everything this movie has to offer. I must tread lightly here with the plot because even the smallest spoiler would destroy the house of cards the movie is sitting regally upon so all I will say is that you have to pay attention to each and every bit of this to understand what’s going on. I’ll also add that it’s about the characters as much as it is about the glamorous smokescreen of larger than life magic tricks.
Because even within a world that is dominated predominantly by the unbelievable, the story is locked around these solidly constructed characters who believe in it. It doesn’t matter if you can see the archetypes they’re built on – the skeptical cop, the whimsical near-believer, the worldly gray-area-dwelling tricksters – because they are so deeply embedded in their beliefs that their archetypes are more like stepping stones, which is how it should be.
A good script, I’ve come to realize, doesn’t hide the writing from the audience; it makes you not care. This is also the work of actors that are invested in their characters. A good script in the hands of a capable, smart actor is a work of art. Everyone in this movie cared and it shows through brilliantly.
This is also, without a doubt, the most clever, self-satisfied movie I’ve ever seen and more so, it has the right to be. Magic tricks live on synchronicity and Now You See Me did not put one well-buffed shoe out of place. Each piece slots together, spins it’s cog and rolls the machine forward. Sure, I can’t say you don’t see some of the turns early but like a good magician, Now You See Me directs you into it and tips you over into a new level. Even the common place, the moments we expect to breathe before the script takes us to the next part, have a tinge of sleight of hand.
Now You See Me is relentless in it’s games, catapulting the audience from one grandiose point to the next but as much delight as the movie and it’s characters take in spinning us around and around, it also allows us to see that beneath the glitter and bright, smiling showmanship, there is a deep emotional anchor that ties the movie down in place when it’s tempted to float away, puffed up with it’s own delirious fun. It is, once more, the people that settle the film and make it into more than just a magic movie, more than just fast-paced action-filled tale: there’s heart. A smidgen heavy-handed heart but heart nonetheless.
This is a film with several masks to peel away. I believe it was worth every single reveal and if you go home afterward, feeling a little hypnotized, trust me when I tell you that you’re not alone.
Now You See Me is now showing in theaters everywhere.
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