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.
- Entertainment: 5/5
- Artistic: 3/5
- Intellectual: 1/5
The ten-years-in-the-making Margaret sets out its mission from the word go; to examine a teenager thrown into impossible situations. When you place a not-yet-fully-formed human into a situation that no one should ever have to confront what happens?
In the case of Lisa (Anna Paquin), a lot. Her life, as mirrored in the script and cinematographic style goes from cheesy teen soap opera to living nightmare within ten minutes. The classic film tropes of chasing a bus, flirting with the driver as he drives away and generally being a carefree adolescent are overturned when this bus actually hits somebody. The red light that it ran through is on screen for a split second, we, like her, could well have missed it in all the rush. From here onwards the film evolves into a spiral of consequences and repercussions.
Lisa searches fruitlessly for an outlet where she can outsource her pain and guilt. This causes her to hurt a huge group of undeserving people. Each time she pulls another person into her web of carelessness and hurt the film cuts away from the dialogue. We know enough to be sure that it is painful for everyone. We are, however, observers and, as such, we are not allowed to hear the intimacies of these conversations. While this is a clever idea, it is executed rather clumsily and is often very irritating, as conversations are replaced with heavily over-amplified background noises: a phone ringing five metres away or cutlery clanging in the out-of-shot kitchen of a restaurant.
While Anna Paquin gives a sterling performance as the protagonist she is let down by the script. It is impossible to warm to the character of Lisa. She is loud, obnoxious, thoughtless and selfish. In a film which clearly sets her up as a sympathetic figure, almost a teenage everyman, it is strange to have created a character so utterly disagreeable that it almost seems she deserves her troubles.
What is bizarre is that the many subplots scattered throughout the film are often more engaging and better made than the main thrust of the story. Lisa’s alienation from her schoolmates is perfectly portrayed as her peers exist only as talking heads who snap and shout at each other over relatively trivial matters. A series of sexual trysts and their consequences present us with a sly commentary on today’s sexualised society. However another thread involving her mother’s relationship with a new man, while being a fascinating and thought-provoking story, seems irrelevant to the film as a whole, making it seem over-stuffed and needlessly complex. Perhaps this is a symptom of the protracted editing period this film endured. After so much fighting for the film to be finished at all it must have put even more pressure on the creators to not leave any of their precious footage on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately this is perhaps where some of it belonged.