Four of the world’s greatest magicians, brought together under mysterious circumstances, become worldwide phenomenons as they perform tricky heists in plain sight. Hot on their heels is a team of FBI agents led by Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), a skeptic’s skeptic who finds himself partnered with Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent). Chased from location to location, the team of illusionists and tricksters reveal their true intentions — as modern Robin Hoods, they dispatch their own form of justice by taking from the rich and giving it to the poor who’ve been wronged.
J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) leads the Four Horsemen, a team comprised of mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), former assistant and escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and the unscrupulous street magician Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). Performing under the patronage of Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), the group heads a show in Las Vegas that ends with spectacular bank robbery that uses a member of the audience as an unwitting accomplice. Heading to New Orleans to perform another show and possibly another caper, the team is followed by agents of the FBI and Interpol looking for answers. The authorities fail to apprehend the crew before another successful heist ups the ante, and the magicians get ready to perform one more show for a worldwide audience.
Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) officially joins the fray after the magicians betray Tressler at a show. A professional debunker, Bradley makes a living revealing tricks through his website. Eventually, all roads lead to New York City where plot twists and reveals give way for the grand finale and the identity of the mysterious figure pulling the strings. That final plot twist comes across as unexpected, but it isn’t very effective — it almost seems a little counter intuitive because it’s the character no should expect. While the movie is entertaining, the main problem with Now You See Me is the execution — characters pat themselves on the back, talking vaguely while trumpeting up grandiose plans, and as the end of the movie approaches, the wheels come off because the payoff is too weak. There’s plenty of misdirection, distraction, and a bit of mentalism in the magicians’ bag of tricks, and the script goes to great lengths to lead audiences through a labyrinth of twists and turns. The movie falls apart at the seams because it works against itself — computer graphics dispel the grounded sense of reality necessary for building up palpable tension. There’s also the feeling that, no matter how many obstacles are thrown their way, the authorities never seem to stand a chance of stopping the Four Horsemen’s bid for the ultimate trick. There’s a bit of pretense, and the lack of characterization amounts to a dearth of sympathy leaving Now You See Me feeling like a husk of a movie. It’s an illusion in and of itself — its sweeping camera pans and award-show glitz and glamour reveal a movie on rails when the curtain’s pulled back. It’s entertaining — the more so if you’re able to suspend disbelieve for 115 mins, and that’s a trick not everyone can do.