Magicians are inherently compelling. Built around misdirection and hidden agendas, anything they say or do will have you second guessing what is real and what isn't. Director Louis Leterrier combines kinetic action and a location jumping script to keep the audience guessing. Though the level of disbelief is pretty high in Now You See Me, it is matched by the level of enjoyment. Plus anytime you can get Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in scenes together the audience is already won over.
Through mysterious circumstances, the 4 horsemen: J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), come together in a Vegas show sponsored by millionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and rob a bank. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is assigned to the case along with Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). Being magical novices, the two enlist the help of magic debunking specialist Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who gives the agents a crash course in Magic 101 to help them pursue the horsemen before they finish their three act play.
The biggest failing of Now You See Me is time: time to dissect the plot and expose all the flaws. How did thousands of people get to one of the locations when it was only advertised 20 min before the event happened? When a case needs to be inspected, it is not and sent to where it is supposed to go. One of the characters is not jailed when they should be. These are just a few of the many jumps in logic the script takes.
To Leterrier's credit, his kinetic direction keeps Now You See Me moving so quickly that we barely have time to process what just happened. It helps that the three acts are committed in three different cities: Vegas, New Orleans, and New York City giving a different feel to each of the three acts. There are many little reveals leading to the big reveal at the end (good, not great) which keep the audience on their toes. The cast is big enough to give scenes to different variations of characters. Also, there are a couple really fun chases and magic shows that are exciting and not overlong or repetitive. Now You See Me is just under two hours long, but because of the swift changes in location/character perspective, it never feels boring.
Without the stellar cast, Now You See Me would not be as enjoyable as it actually is. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson elevate one note characters to something a little more; their interaction sizzles with humor and snark. Dave Franco gets to be the action hero of the bunch, but Isla Fisher is semi-wasted after a fun introduction. Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent get a lot of screen time and are both pretty good (just not as compelling as the magicians, a misfire on Now You See Me's part). Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine set the stakes with their involvement and get to have some fun in their roles even if they are underutilized.
"The closer you look, the less you'll see." The defining quote of Now You See Me applies to the script as well as the magicians themselves. If you go in expecting to have fun, you'll love it, if you try to pick it apart, it won't stand up. Do yourself a favor and let yourself get taken along for the ride, because Now You See Me has enough fun to be a main attraction.