Friday, May 24, 2013

Thoughts on the film: Now You See Me

Last night I attended a screening with a live Q&A of Now You See Me. I was jazzed about this, because who is not excited about the concept? Come on. The first time I heard about this movie I was all DAMMIT! because why didn't I think of that? Magicians pulling a heist? Dude.

The panel consisted of the composer (Brian Tyler), The director (Louis LeTerrier), producers Alex Kurtzman and Bobby Cohen, and Jesse Eisenberg and Isla Fisher. They raved about how great the script was - made several mentions to its brilliance, even told us that it barely changed from the day LeTerrier first read it to the day it was locked - and yet not once in the entire panel did anyone mention the names of the writers: Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt.

At the very least, Kurtzman should have known better.

But on to the film. This will be spoiler free, so soldier on with no fear.

The movie is about magic, so it opens with a magic trick on the audience. Jesse Eisenberg's character, Michael Atlas, asks a girl to pick a card. As he does, he aims the deck at the camera, and we as audience members instinctively also pick a card. Despite being shown the whole deck, most of the audience picks the same card the girl does, although most of us don't know why. So when he reveals it, we're in on the trick. Right from the jump, we're part of the game.

The four magicians are brought together to form their own show as a group - The Four Horsemen, and during these shows they steal money using magic. But the movie is less about them than it is Mark Ruffalo's Dylan Rhodes, an FBI agent who is determined to bring these guys down after Atlas makes him feel like an idiot. Throughout the entire film, Rhodes is always one step behind, so he turns to professional magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley, played by Morgan Freeman, to help him predict the gang's next move.

This brings me to something that was so fascinating about this film - the structure. The story is Rhodes. He's the protagonist, and for all intents and purposes, The Four Horsemen are the antagonists. But we like them and we want to see them succeed. The whole way through the film, though you really like Rhodes, you kind of hope he doesn't catch these guys. And it works. I found myself rooting for both sides at the same time.

When's the last time you saw that happen?

But the most masterful thing about this film was the way it roped you into the game. Like The Prestige, there is a mystery in front of us. We know that somebody is not who they claim to be, but we don't know who. We spend the whole movie guessing.

I figured it out about halfway through the film, but I was never 100% sure. I constantly decided I was wrong, then right again, then completely wrong again, then probably right... Then I tried to give up guessing, but I just couldn't stop. I had to figure it out.

And the fight scene - oh, the glorious fight scene. Remember when I posted an essay on how to write a fight scene?  I mentioned that each fight scene has to have its own identity. Well here, they do something absolutely brilliant to make that happen. The magician in question fights using magic tricks. I've never seen that before in my life, and it is very, very cool. It's a combination of brains and quickness and physical skill all on display, and I was all giggly over it.

This film worked for me on all levels. My only complaint is Morgan Freeman. He's great, as he always is, but the problem is that we've seen him be the kind old man too many times. He's a bit of an asshole in this movie, but it's tough to feel anything but warm affection for him. I had a hard time not trusting him the way I was supposed to.

Overall, this was really fun. I found myself smiling throughout the movie, despite the annoying bitch next to me who showed up half an hour late, sat on my foot, texted, talked, took like five thousand pictures of Jesse Eisenberg as he told funny jokes to his entourage in the wings before the interview, and said things like "This is better than the Chelsea Handler Show" and "Hey they must have straightened Jesse Eisenberg's hair for the movie" during the Q&A.

I would gladly go see this again, knowing what I know now, just so I can look for clues. But it's well worth seeing at least once. I'm kind of glad I didn't come up with this idea now, because I don't think I would have done such a great job with it. The film truly lives up to its concept.


  1. I wasn't going to see this and now I am. And GOD, I hate people who act like they just got off the bus at these things. Yes, you're in the same room with movie stars; act like you belong here. 'Chelsea Handler'?

  2. I want to thank you for your review of this one, Emily. I read this a couple weeks ago, and went to see the film last week because of your review. And oh my God, I was floored. I, too, picked the same card in that opening scene, and from that moment on, I was on board to follow this movie around like a puppy dog, no matter where it took me.

  3. I really dug it. Nice to see a thoughtful take from the positive side that isn't "it kinda sucks, but is agreeable enough."

    I saw the trailer and later thought, "I bet that makes money." Not cause I know anything; no, it was a gut reaction.

    "I really want to know what's gonna happen. It looks like fun." Not for cool fight scenes, shootouts or explosions (which ARE awesome), but the goddamn story.

    Also, when I saw it, I took my Mom for a belated Mother's Day outing and she loved it. So there's that.

    Was very happy to hear it recently -- and quietly -- broke $100 million.

    Well done!


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