Graham Young is enthralled by this gloriously silly tale of four magicians who become the modern day equivalent of Robin Hood
What’s the magic password you need to see a film about illusionists putting their skills to good use on the dark side of the law?
Next, sit back ready to see if the year’s starriest cast really can fool you.
There have been many conmen and grifter movies down the years, and here we have pure Hollywood hokum about four illusionists stealing from the corrupt in order to shower their audiences with money.
The magical team of Four Horsemen characters are conjuror J Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), escapologist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), street magician Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and mentalist Merritt McKinney (wild Woody Harrelson) and they plan to pull off an illusion that will stun the world.
In front of a live audience, they choose an audience member at random and magically transport their stooge to a bank in Paris to raid millions from the vault. With their sponsor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and renowned sceptic Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) watching in the aisles, Daniel, Henley, Merrit and Jack pull off this seemingly impossible feat.
Within hours, they are under arrest and facing interrogation by FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), who doesn’t want the case, nor the added distraction of Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent).
The cops quickly learn that they underestimate the magicians at their peril.
The opening scenes are the best where each illusionist uses sleight of hand on a one-to-one basis before the tricks become theatre-sized, whole-audience stunts.
Throughout, the script offers constant reminders that if you get too close you won’t see anything. Does that mean we should sit on the back row and get the bigger picture?
Or will sitting at the front leave us blind in more ways than one? Who makes Michael Caine disappear?
And is Jesse Eisenberg simply content to have a laugh after The Social Network?
Compared with Ed Norton’s The Illusionist and Hugh Jackman’s The Prestige, two rival movies from 2006, Now You See Me never takes itself at all seriously.
In fact, it has more in common with the family-orientated National Treasure series and the Ocean’s... franchise, minus the boredom factor.
Thankfully production values are a lot higher than the British alternative Magicians (2007) and there’s more on-screen energy than we had in this year’s Jim Carrey flop, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
French director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter) might not have been helped by having three scriptwriters and two cinematographers.
Ignore the gaping plot holes and Now You See Me all comes together in gloriously silly fashion.