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By Tom Glasson
August 05, 2013
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By Tom Glasson
August 05, 2013
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There's this wondrous thing about magic: it almost never fails to capture the imagination of even the most ardent cynic. It might just be for a split second, maybe even less, but in that fleeting moment as the card reappears or the coin vanishes or god knows what else, you can't help but ask yourself "...how the hell did they just do that?" Because of course we all know magic doesn't exist, not real magic, yet our inability to reconcile that which we know from what we've just seen needles away at our curiosity like a splinter under the skin. It's baffling and frustrating and utterly beguiling. 

But then there's this awful thing about magic in film: it almost never succeeds in capturing the imagination of even the most hopeful viewer. That's because film, unlike real life, already possess the ability to do everything the imagination can muster. The transformation of a pigeon into a pocket square can never hope to impress when space ships can warp into black holes, child wizards can drag race dragons and Hulks can smash. Good movies about magic (such as 2006's The Prestige) aren't about magic, they're about the magicians, and yet the problem with Now You See Me, is that it never really commits to being about either. 

At the start of the film (when the only genuine magic trick takes place and is legitimately good enough to elicit an audible response from the audience), we meet four magicians played by Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and Woody Harrelson. All are performing independently until a mysterious benefactor brings them together with the challenge of executing the "greatest magic trick ever conceived". Fast forward a year and they pull it off: a live televised robbery of a French bank vault without ever leaving their stage in Las Vegas. With the promise of even greater robberies to follow, the FBI brings in cynical agent Mark Ruffalo to stop them, whilst professional 'debunker' Morgan Freeman sets out to expose the means behind the magic. 

There are some nice performances from Harrelson and Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds); however, the plot is utterly ridiculous and the magic isn't even remotely engrossing. It's a sort of 'pop heist movie'; an Ocean's Eleven for Gen-Y that's more concerned with looking cool than being it.

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