Four magicians—Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) are brought together by a mysterious benefactor.
One year later the foursome perform in Las Vegas as “The Four Horsemen” sponsored by insurance magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). For the finale 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 airduct which vacuums 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 Dray (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 makes money by revealing the secrets behind other magicians’ tricks. Bradley was in the audience that night and deduced that the Four Horsemen stole the money weeks before, and manipulated the audience into believing it happened in real time.
Rhodes, Dray and Bradley attend the Four Horsemen’s next performance in New Orleans. The group’s finale involves their stealing about $140 million from Tressler’s bank account and distributing it to the audience, which comprises people whose insurance claims had been denied or reduced by Tressler’s company.
Again Rhodes attempts to arrest the Four Horsemen, but they escape with help from audience members who were hypnotized to tackle whoever next yelled “Freeze”. An infuriated Tressler hires Bradley to expose and humiliate the Four Horsemen in their next performance.
Later, whilst researching the Four Horsemen’s background, Dray learns about rumours of a secret society of magicians called “The Eye” and suggests to a sceptical Rhodes the case might be connected to a magician whom Bradley once exposed, and was so humiliated that he attempted a dangerous underwater stunt and drowned.
Before the Four Horsemen’s last performance in New York City, Rhodes and Dray locate the group’s hideout and confront Wilder there. Wilder attempts to escape in a stolen car, but during the chase it flips and explodes. Rhodes and Dray learn that the Four Horsemen are targeting a particular safe, which is under the surveillance of another FBI team which has taken over the case. They intercept the safe en route to 5 Pointz, but find it empty.
The ability of the Four Horseman to continually outwit the FBI leads Rhodes to suspect that there must be a fifth member of the team, potentially Dray or Bradley.
At the final performance, Rhodes and Dray once again attempt to apprehend the Four Horsemen, but Atlas, Reeves, and McKinney jump from the rooftop, seemingly transforming into piles of money that rain from the sky into the cheering crowd, but it turns out the money is fake. Rhodes and Dray are left with the case unsolved, and they kiss goodbye.
Later on the fifth member of the team is revealed and it all becomes crystal clear.
Using intrigue, magic and robbery as the basic elements to weave a suspense drama, the film works because of its pace, performances and execution. There is something about a right ensemble that takes a film to a different level of brilliance. Now You See Me has a lot to do with the casting and the actors selected to play these characters.
The dialogues are smart, razor sharp and witty. Also performances are exemplary. Especially, Eisenberg who stands out in the cast and is so ahead of the curve in this game. Harrelson is in his element and both Caine and Freeman are leaders of the pack when it comes to giving noteworthy performances.
On the down side the second half seems rushed, and there are too many twists and turns that keep coming. Leterrier sems to be in a rush to draw the curtains on his act much before you actually start enjoying the show. Also, even though the characters are well written, none of them stay with you as the end credits roll.
Despite these limitations, Now You See Me makes for a decent thriller that opens with a bang, but fizzles out towards the end.
Now You See Me is out 3rd July 2013. I got to see it early as part of a Cineworld Unlimited screening.
By Ruth Walker