Review for Now You See Me
Who doesn’t like a good con movie? There are plenty of heist movies out there, determined thieves depriving their targets of their wealth in imaginative and action packed ways, but the con movies take it to another level, getting the victim to be complicit in their own financial demise. It’s about planning, about wit, and about style, which makes films like Ocean’s Eleven and The Sting so enjoyable. It’s a bit of a surprise then that there aren’t more movies like Now You See Me, after all, magic, the art of illusion is in effect a con, albeit one where the audience is aware that they are being conned, and indeed, that is the whole point of the entertainment. For an illusionist to turn his skills to more larcenous goals ought to make for the ultimate con movie.
A stage magician, a street magician, an escape artist and a mentalist are all being watched, their skills noticed. They each receive a card, an invitation... One year later, The Four Horsemen are the biggest, brightest, upcoming stars of the magic world, playing to packed out venues in Vegas. One of their tricks, to ‘rob a bank’ catches the attention of the FBI when a Parisian Bank halfway around the world suddenly finds its vault emptied of cash. A cat and mouse game ensues as FBI agent Dylan Rhodes, teamed up with an Interpol agent named Alma Dray, dogs the heels of the Four Horsemen as their elaborate, larcenous illusions unfold.
You get the original Theatrical Version (115:26), and the Extended Version (124:46) on one disc courtesy of seamless branching, I only watched the latter for the purposes of this review.
It’s not just action movies. Movies about magic apparently have to be orange and teal these days. Wouldn’t it be easier, and cheaper to surgically alter everyone’s eyes at birth so that they grow up seeing the world in orange and teal, rather than go through each new movie, one by one to change the colour timing?
Other than that, the 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer is fine, bringing across the movie and the action with clarity and sharpness, with strong consistent colours (orange and teal), and with no issues with compression that I noticed. The sole audio track on this disc is a DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround English track with optional subtitles. The surround is put to excellent use to convey the action, while the film gets a memorable and appropriate music soundtrack.
You get one disc in a BD Amaray. It autoplays trailers for Ender’s Game, The Fifth Estate, RED 2, and 2 Guns before booting to an animated menu.
You get an audio commentary from producer Bobby Cohen, and director Louis Leterrier.
Now You See Me Revealed lasts 15:38 and is the usual making of featurette.
A Brief History of Magic lasts 11:53.
There are 13 Deleted Scenes running to a total of 31:55, and most of them are really quite good. Of course they had to be deleted as they either revealed plot twists too early, or the alternate scenes chosen were even better, but they are worth watching.
Finally there are the teaser and theatrical trailers. All of the video extras are in HD.
Now You See Me was fun, certainly more fun than I was expecting it to be. It’s definitely a con movie wearing magic apparel, but this con movie is less about making money, than it is about revenge. It’s a personal, meaningful story, which instantly makes it more interesting than a simple tale about avarice. It also finds a thrilling and entertaining balance between comedy, action and drama, with a cast of flawed but likeable characters. From the moment it starts, Now You See Me keeps you on the back foot as events lead to reveals lead to twists and reversals. Of course with a film like this, the proof of the pudding will be in the re-watching, but given that I was previously spoiled about this film’s biggest revelation, when I caught the last twenty minutes of it on television, and didn’t feel compromised when I watched it for real, suggests that this film will sit happily at home in my collection.
It’s the variety in the story that appeals to me, beginning with the Four Horsemen themselves, four magicians with four differing talents, stage, street, escapology and mentalism, coming together to form an entertainment ‘extravaganza’, while also pulling off some inexplicable heists. It isn’t long before the FBI is on their trail, but there is also a professional magic debunker pursuing them as well. We already know when the film starts that they have been recruited by a mysterious hooded figure, and at their first show in Vegas, they have as their benefactor and promoter one Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). It quickly dawns on the FBI that there must be a 5th Horseman behind the scenes, and as well as solving the crimes, deducing his or her identity becomes a thread in the film.
If there is a disappointment in a film about stage magic and illusions, it’s the decision to accomplish so many of the tricks with the aid of movie special effects and CGI, especially those tricks that can be practically demonstrated. And given the nature of the story, you won’t be surprised at the presence of a plot hole or two that will induce a ‘Yeah, but...’ attitude after the end credits have rolled.
But generally, I loved the film. The story was engrossing, I liked the characters and the way they sparked off each other, and the way the plot twisted and turned made the experience even more entertaining. And despite the CGI, the film looked the part as well, with some impressive magic tricks that remained plausible throughout. The Blu-ray offers impressive AV quality as always, and there is a decent selection of extra features. Now I just have to hope that the sequel is up to scratch.