Now You See Me (d. Louis Leterrier France/USA 2013)

Now You See Me (d. Louis Leterrier France/USA 2013)

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With the evolution of science as a corner-stone of our society, the days of magic seem further and further behind us. Everything needs to be, and is, explained. When something isn’t explained, it is frustrating or unrealistic. I’ve noticed with some of the films recently that there is a certain tendency to return to this magic fantasy. The coming of films like The Lord of the Rings (d. Peter Jackson USA/New Zealand 2001, 20022003), Harry Potter (d. Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón, Mike Newell, David Yates,  USA/UK 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011), Twilight (d. Catherine Hardwicke, Chris Weitz, David Slade, Bill Condon USA 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) and Pirates of the Caribbean (d. Gore Verbinski, Rob Marshall USA 2003, 2006, 2007, 2011) are some of these films. Now You See Me explores this tendency. Pitching a kind of Realism with a spectacle associated with magical performances. Does magic exist or is it a Trick? I will say that this Magic is far from the Magic of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. However, it still plays with teleportation, hypnotism and telekinesis.


The narrative of this film is one of the films strong points, characters are involved in what they are doing far beyond what they know. Now You See Me, offers moments of spectacle associated with how did they do that – both on and off the screen. This concept is also tied into the narrative. Did you see this coming? Are you with us or are you being mislead? The spectacle of magic is copied into the narrative structure. The narrative itself becomes the spectacle. If the film works its magic, you will be entertained. If it fails in its magic, you will not. I will say, for those largely familiar with film and able to read film well, may not be as entertained. For those who found Inception (d. Christopher Nolan USA 2010) complicated, you will be entertained, for those who didn’t – I’m not so sure.


This film boasts an impressive cast and thankfully it pays off. Through performance, characters in Now You See Me flip from likeable to unlikeable. Especially the protagonist, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), who becomes an unlikeable character, as it encourages an empathy with the four horsemen: J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). However, this means its hard to like Dylan Rhodes when you’re meant to. But, in other character such as the aforementioned four Horsemen, its both interesting and effective. Characters are: questionable, realistic, relatable, good and bad from moment to moment. However, in Dylan Rhodes, the protagonist, it isn’t effective. It is important for the protagonist to remain likeable in order for the narrative to succeed.


Cinema recently has seen a decline in interest. Interestingly, this has seen a return to performances inspiring film. Cinemas are now showing theatre and music performances. Likewise, Now You See Me, shows a return to the type of spectacle received by performances. There are many moments in which characters put on performances. These performances are enhanced by the cinematography, to deliver the entertaining spectacle that their audience would receive – but cinematically for a spectator. It’s in an interesting stylistic aspect of this film, necessitated by the narrative and is certainly an interesting new tendency for cinema.


In conclusion, Now You See Me, is an ambitious film but an entertaining one. Sometimes the film may miss its mark but, thankfully, by not too far. It’s strengths are in its characters and its spectacles. It’s narrative is important but not as strong – being slightly predictable. Weirdly enough, its strengths can also be its weaknesses. However, for most audiences I would say that this will be an entertaining watch – so worth a try.


Further Reading

Interview with Jesse Eisenberg

Official Site

Michael Cain’s Site

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