With the state of big budget cinema being what it is, we were very lucky this Summer. In a world of sequels, adaptations and films based on toys we got not one, but two totally original blockbusters in the form of Pacific Rim and Now You See Me.
On paper this story doesn’t seem like it would need a mega budget; 4 magicians use their stage show to enact elaborate heists which continually vex the FBI and Interpol. But with producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Transformers, Amazing Spiderman) and director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans) on board, this movie was given the deserved financial kick that allows its spectacle to enhance its high concept.
The thing that hit me most about the film is its pace. The opening sequence fills the first 25 minutes of the film and feels like it only takes about 5. The characters are introduced very cleverly and with no annoying exposition. I suppose its fitting for a movie about magic that it adopts the ‘show don’t tell’ method of storytelling, which means the pace never slows. Everything we need to know about plot, character and agenda is told visually, which is a very refreshing thing for a summer blockbuster to do and is a great credit to the writing team.
More than anything the film is fun. Seeing the complexity of the tricks being performed and then deconstructed by Morgan Freeman’s equivalent of the Masked Magician makes for a great sense of real time discovery, putting us in the shoes of the FBI agents who are desperately trying to keep up with the four magicians causing all the havoc.
“The closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see”
So how are the protagonists? The magicians (collectively known as the Four Horsemen) are played by Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco (yes James Franco’s brother). The chemistry between the leads is fantastic. The fact that each actor is quite obviously having a lot of fun serves to truly elevate the story. Eisenberg and Harrelson’s awkward friendship in particular provides much of the comedy in the film, and is a reminder of the amazing performance they shared in Zombieland.
Though at times Now You See Me veers too much towards the use of CGI, it is overall a visually stunning movie. You may find yourself asking more questions than experiencing a genuine resolution at the end, you will definitely be smiling as the credits roll. More than anything it is great to experience something completely new, which serves as a reminder that original stories are all too scarce in mainstream cinema right now. The fact that a sequel has been announced is both testament to my previous point and hugely ironic. But I’m excited to see where the Four Horsemen go next!