Nashville On Stage: Now You See Me

Morgan Freeman in Now You See Me.

Now You See Me is a new thriller with an all-star cast about a group of magicians teaming up to pull off the perfect heist. The film has also been ‘magic’ at the box office—far exceeding expectations and beating out the new Will Smith flick, After Earth, to capture the number two spot (behind Fast and Furious 6). Both Now You See Me and After Earth performed just shy of $30 million. But Now You See Me is ‘magic’ because it wasn’t expected to take in much more than $20 million—and After Earth was expected to open with $50-75 million. Now You See Me was designed to serve as counterprogramming to summer studio fare, but instead the $75 million budgeted film may end up being a summer blockbuster in its own right.

So what makes Now You See Me so magical? Well, the plot is often overly complicated and the special effects aren’t usually all that ‘special’—although still good by pre-digital standards. But the all-star cast and great performances pull this Louis Leterrier (Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans) film over the top. Leterrier can also take credit for jump-starting the plot with his fast-paced direction. Also, while the plot is often implausible—the dialogue and banter can be witty and engaging.

Here’s the scoop: Four magicians, Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and Merritt Osbourne (Woody Harrelson), are brought together by a mysterious benefactor. One year later, they’re performing in Las Vegas as ‘The Four Horsemen’ sponsored by Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), an insurance magnate. During one of their performances, the Four Horsemen invite a member of the audience to help them in their next trick: robbing a bank. The man is apparently teleported to his bank in Paris where he activates an air duct vacuuming up the money and showers it onto the crowd in Las Vegas.

FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is called to investigate the theft and is partnered with Interpol Agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent). They interrogate the Four Horsemen, but release them when no explanation for the theft can be found other than magic. Rhodes then meets Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), an ex-magician who now reveals the secrets behind other magicians’ tricks. Bradley was in the audience and deduced that the Four Horsemen stole the money weeks before, and manipulated the audience into believing it happened in real time.

That’s about all of the plot I need to reveal. Just suffice it to say that the story has so many twists and turns and plot reversals, you’re head will be spinning if you don’t pay close attention. In fact, it gets a bit too complicated. But the performances of the A-list cast prevent the film from bogging down and becoming tedious. The actors seem to be having so much fun with their lines, parts and relationships, you can’t help but have a blast yourself. Freeman in particular, as a former magician and current anti-showman devoted to debunking the magicians’ secrets, is delightful.

Now You See Me does indeed have a convoluted plot, but it’s still great fun. It was conceived as a light and breezy alternative to typical summer blockbuster movies. No one expected it to beat them at their own game, but ranking in the number two box office spot—that’s what it’s done. It’s slick, deliberately silly, and sprinkled with visual treats. There are Steadicam spins, lens flares, and lighthearted trick shots enough for a fun house.

Rated PG-13 for language, some action and sexual content, Now You See Me runs for an engaging 116 minutes at theaters everywhere nationwide.