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Now You See Me… Now You Don't

(The Verge) – Contrary to popular magician stereotypes, Now You See Me, directed by Louis Leterrier, proves that even magic tricks can be cool.  Appropriately rated PG-13, the complex story line will keep even the best thriller film guru guessing.  Lasting 115 minutes, Now You See Me follows four magicians as they are brought together as the “4 Horsemen” to show just how unbelievable magic can be.
Jesse Eisenberg plays J. Daniel Atlas, or Danny.  He is a quick talking magician who advises to “always be the smartest guy in the room”.  Danny is able to break free of handcuffs and set them on another person in one fluid motion.  He can make even the most firm magic doubter begin to question their beliefs.
Merritt McKinney, played by Woody Harrelson, serves as the quick mouthed comic relief.  McKinney is a mentalist, so uncovering the most hidden secrets is his specialty.  Just ask the man who he exposed for cheating on his wife with her sister.  As the comic relief, sharing a sentimental moment with a fellow magician, Danny, is not exactly worthy of shedding a tear.  “When I first met you,” McKinney says, “I thought you were a dick”.  McKinney is a wise guy who is rarely found without a sarcastic remark.
As the only queen in the deck of Horsemen, Isla Fisher plays Henley Reeves, who may have had a romantic past with Danny.  In the beginning of the film, Henley locks herself in a water filled tank where piranhas will be dropped if she doesn’t get out in time.  Henley’s daring nature shows that she can hold her own next to the kings.

“The Four Horsemen” look puzzled as they discover their ‘assignment.’ Image taken from: blogs.citypaper.com

Dave Franco plays Jack Wilder, a young magician with a sinister smile who looks up to McKinney for his magic career.  According to Jack, no door is ever locked.  His talent of making that statement true comes in handy when Danny, McKinney, Henley, and Jack each receive a card telling them to come to a certain place at a specific day and time.  The invitation leads them to a locked and seemingly empty apartment building.  Fast forward one year and “The 4 Horsemen” begin to show their unbelievable acts to the world.
“What is magic?”…Danny explains that, “Magic is deception, but deception to delight”.  On a Las Vegas stage, the Horsemen are sleek, in all black as they tell the audience that they are going to rob a bank.  An audience member is chosen at “random” to transport in a matter of seconds to their own bank.  After the 3.2 million euros from the bank, or about 4.2 million dollars, is given to the audience, the trick is completed.  The authorities quickly get involved but there are more questions than answers.  While the FBI cannot prove anything just yet, the Horsemen continue with their mind-bending tricks.
Agent Dylan, played by Mark Buffalo, is extremely skeptical about magic but leads the crew of law enforcement officials as they try to uncover how the Horsemen in fact robbed a bank across the Atlantic. When Agent Dylan is left dumbfounded, he uses the help of a retired magician, Thaddeus Bradley played by Morgan Freeman, to get answers.  “You’re an idiot to think they robbed a bank,” Thaddeus tells Agent Dylan. 
Now You See Me explains how robbing a bank in France when stationed in Las Vegas is possible… or is it?
The connection between characters and audience is where Now You See Me greatly falters.  Information about their backgrounds and about how they became magicians is never released.  How much did anyone actually know about Danny, McKinney, Henley, and Jack?  Besides their last names being announced when they appeared on stage, any other information was hidden better than their own magical secrets.  Unfortunately, the disconnect causes the film to be held back from film ‘immortality.’  At the end, the viewer may ask who the Four Horsemen even were.  While mystery and unanswered questions may be the persona a magician may want to exude, it can leave the viewer with an unfulfilled and unsatisfying feeling.
The Horsemen look at their magical product. Image taken from: aceshowbiz.com

The lighting assisted by production designer, Peter Wenham, and frequent background music with original music by, Brian Tyler, were key components throughout this film.  With the anticipation growing, the music becomes more dramatic which builds the anticipation for what happens next.  The dim lights play up to the mysterious ambiance that can be found during a magic show.  These prime factors are done well in Now You See Me and help set the overall mood of the film.
During the jaw dropping twists, Now You See Me really shines.  These four masterminds take on over-the-top tricks without the help of a lovely assistant.  With deception playing such a prominent role, it becomes difficult to know just who to trust.  Although there may be a time or two where the upcoming event is a little predictable, this film can still hold an audience’s attention.
One of the themes found in Now You See Me was said best by Danny.  “The closer you look, the less you see.” This in fact, proves to be true throughout the greater film itself.  Just as Agent Dylan thinks he has it all figured out, he is left confused by all of the deception. Thaddeus proves to have some answers to help the federal agent, however, that might not be enough to get to the bottom of this ‘hocus-pocus.’
Although Now You See Me had great components, on a whole it was not amazing.  While the story line was interesting and it featured some talented actors, the film ended with more questions than answers.