Now You See Me (2013)
Now You See Me is one of those movies that I greatly enjoyed when I saw it, but which I suspect is going to fall apart on a second viewing. The story is reliant on layers of red herrings, misdirection, and shocking swerves, and while it goes to great lengths to explain itself at the end, I left the theater with a sneaking suspicion that the plot wasn't as sturdy as it seemed. In a way, this is an apt metaphor for the film itself, which is about stage magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, and Isla Fisher) who use misdirection and their assorted talents to pull off a series of daring heists disguised as magic acts. Like its protagonists, this film manages to pull off a spectacle so visually stunning that you won't care how it worked or didn't work, you'll just be entertained from start to finish.
The plot here, once you think about it on the drive home, doesn't really add up to much. Since this is a film that's all about sudden plot twists, to explain precisely where things start going wrong would be to ruin half the fun, so I will refrain, except to say that the ultimate motivations of the "master" seemed to be incredibly petty, and that it seemed highly questionable that four street magicians could pull off these heists. However, for all that certain things don't really make sense afterwards, they are engaging as hell when you're actually watching them. Director Louis Leterrier has made a very stylish film that never stops running on all cylinders, masking the goings-on with several layers of flash and special effects that ensured that I was never bored. And while the big reveal may not have worked out perfectly, the actual magic tricks/heists were very well set up on both a visual level and in terms of how the characters executed them.
Speaking of the characters, the four magicians at the center of the film, despite a tendency to come off as pricks, were all very fun to watch. Eisenberg, Harrelson, Franco, and Fisher all brought their characters to life (even if Fisher once again has a hard time covering up her Australian accent), and felt like fun people even with their attitudes. They were far more interesting to watch than Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent as, respectively, the FBI and Interpol agents hot on their trail. They're both solid actors, but outside of a sudden reveal involving one of them, the script doesn't do them any favors. I also loved Morgan Freeman playing against type as the smarmy "debunker" Thaddeus, a mix of Penn Jilette (of Penn & Teller fame) and James Randi who may have once sought to protect people from hucksters, but now wishes to discredit the "Four Horsemen" solely so he can get rich off of the inevitable TV special.
Score: 4 out of 5
This film's biggest trick may well be in how it manages to cover for its plot mistakes with enough flash that you won't care about plot holes until long after you're gone from the theater. It makes for both a highly entertaining trip to the movies and an apt metaphor for itself.