Just like TV and people in real life, film comes in many shapes and forms. From big-budget blockbusters to romcoms, earnest indies to comic book franchises, but only summer cinema schedules produce something as delightfully frothy and fun as Now You See Me.
It’s been favourably compared to the likes of Ocean’s Eleven and its sequels, but Now You See Me is very much its own beast, while being an archetypal caper movie. Directed by Louis Leterrier, whose impressive CV includes the first two Transporter movies, Unleashed, The Incredible Hulk, and Clash of the Titans, Now You See Me breezes along, and features an excellent cast.
The scene is set when 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 and unseen benefactor.
Fast-forward to a year later, the group are performing in Las Vegas as The Four Horsemen (even though Isla Fisher is most definitely a girl) and sponsored by the wealthy insurance magnate, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).
As the show draws to a close, a random member of the audience is invited to help the magicians perform their final trick: robbing a Paris-based bank. The man is teleported to the bank, where he activates the AC, which vacuums up the money and showers it over the audience back in Las Vegas.
FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (the always watchable Mark Ruffalo) is called to investigate the apparent theft and is reluctantly partnered with Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent). Following interrogation, the Four Horsemen are released, and Rhodes then meets Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a former magician who makes money by revealing the secrets behind other magicians' tricks. Bradley was in the Las Vegas audience when the Paris trick was performed and reckons that the Four Horsemen stole the money weeks before the show...
Some reviewers so far have been underwhelmed, describing Now You See Me as an over-elaborate puff of smoke with implausible plot lines. So what? Howard Hawks' 1946 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep is a complete head-wreck in that regard, but that doesn't stop it from being a fantastic movie.
Now You See Me isn't in the same league as The Big Sleep, but it is well-played fun, with some great live scenes of magic in the style of the top performers in the field (such as David Copperfield and our own Keith Barry, who advised Woody Harrelson). David Kwong, a Harvard-educated magician and puzzler who designs and advises on illusions for film and TV (and writes crossword puzzles for The New York Times), acted as a consultant on the film.
If you’re looking for the kind of movie that lets you switch off, relax and enjoy the ride, I can’t recommend Now You See Me any higher. It’s great fun - a real treat in a candy floss and ice cream kind of way - and has a spectacular finale.
All we need now is a decent summer.