Every so often you have to sit back, relax and watch some high-glamour escapism. Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me fits the bill to a tee.
It’s a genuinely rare phenomenon to find a film that carries the audience so well in its spell. For nearly two hours Now You See Me draws you in and doesn’t let go. When the credits roll you barely feel like any time has passed and it leaves you wanting more. It’s not like the explosion-filled bonanza’s that require a cheering crowd to rile you up, nor is it a superhero film that requires admission to a fandom before you can be allowed to ‘enjoy it properly’. Now You See Me is a standalone, franchise-less and source-less. It entrances with snappy dialogue and an intriguing plot. It reminds me of what I hoped The Adjustment Bureau would turn out before it got weirdly preachy.
The four actors at the heart of the film play a group of magicians performing the biggest trick of all time. Jesse Eisenberg plays a smarmy, entitled know-it-all as he does so well, Isla Fisher is added in to give the men a love interest to play off and Morgan Freeman is calmly superior. It’s not exactly a stretch to watch and the performances are entirely comfortable, a group of tropes and stereotypes gathered together for our amusement.
Of course, the magic in the film is done with CGI, you don’t need to question the tricks too closely to realise this, but that doesn’t reduce the mystery of the denouement. In a way it’s similar to Inception – you never know quite how far down the trick goes. You can try to figure it out, or blithely ignore it and wait for the conclusion to surprise and delight you. Both are equally enjoyable.
It won’t win many Oscars, it certainly won’t make Cannes but in the tradition of Busby Berkeley’s flapper girls, Now You See Me is an escapist fantasy, and when it’s done so well there is never a problem with that.
Richard Ayoade’s Sophomore film is nowhere near the same ballpark as the quintessentially British Indie flick Submarine that propelled him into the realms of up-and-coming director. The Double is adapted from the Dostoyevsky story of the same name and features Jesse Eisenberg in his second film involving video cloning techniques.
The visuals arequite challenging to watch, not a single shot features daylight and the interiors all seem to be painted in a gloomy forest green with orange lighting. The production design is completely consistent in this to the point of it becoming so oppressive to watch you’re almost glad when the film finishes. This consistency does give the film a slick and stylish aesthetic more comparable to music videos than any cinema I can think of. The artificial environment makes it easy for the audience to suspend their disbelief during the bizarre and mildly supernatural series of events the film chronicles. By making the surrounding world so grimy and depressing there is no possibility of trying to find reason for the downward spiral you are watching: it just seems like a by-product of this dystopia.
There are two main characters in this film, Simon James and James Simon. Both are Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg manages to be on screen in nearly every shot, often twice in one shot. Amazingly it is never possible to be mistaken as to which character he is portraying. Despite identical clothing and setting Eisenberg’s performances capture the body language, personalities and variation in tone of two different people. Of course it is true that these two characters are formulated to be polar opposites, but Eisenberg’s consistent believability as both is nothing to be scoffed at. The supporting cast is somewhat less interesting, Mia Wasikowska’s performance is decidedly average, but then her character is more of a plot device than a human being. In fact, none of the other characters are fully fleshed out, only Yasmin Paige seems to break through this to still give an engaging performance, everyone else is just consistently one-dimensional.
While I really want to love this film there is something that seems to be missing. You watch it without being able to look away, but it’s almost too cool, too slick and focused and it wraps itself up so neatly that there is nothing for you to take away from the film. It’s like a soundbyte, a wonderfully entertaining and hip as hell soundbyte, but still not enough to really affect you in any way.