New film Now You See Me has one of the most original scripts since the Matrix, Fight Club and Reservoir Dogs. It is a slick thriller about a crack team of illusionists playing cat and mouse with FBI and Interpol agents as they pull off major heists involving audiences at show-stopping shows.
The film is exciting and refreshing because the high concept is original, the illusionist characters have strong personalities, a sense of humour with special skills that are grounded in reality, the agents seem more stereotypical police/agents but the main thing about this film is that the plot is engaging and the characters are intelligent. In addition to this, the film moves effortlessly between interrogation, romance, not your obvious car chase action, fight scene and Vegas-style shows.
The deft scriptwriting means the special skills of the illusionists and personality traits are revealed within the first five minutes of the film. The audience know they are in the company of a talented and competent group of charismatic illusionists which comprise of arrogant but likeable J. Daniel Atlas played by Jesse Eisenberg, cocky but well-meaning Merritt McKinney played by Woody Harrelson, sassy and daring Henley Reeves played by Isla Fisher and the helpful but slightly insecure young Jack Wilder played by Dave Franco. These ex-small time illusionists suddenly become showpeople and are then called the ‘Four Horsemen’ (forgot the woman!). Parallel stories include cops made up of male FBI agent Dylan Rhodes played by Mark Ruffalo and Interpol agent Alma Dray played by Melanie Laurent. The two are forced to work together but are united in their drive to find the find out how the illusionists commit their spectacular crimes. The cops need hard evidence to arrest the four because they cannot be charged for theft by the use of magic. Rhodes tries to elicit assistance from the money chasing magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley played by Morgan Freeman.
Not only does Now You See Me have complex plots but we had explanations which were as entertaining as the illusions. Everybody is tricked and no one is spared. This includes the audience and the characters. Everyone thinks they know but in line with the theme, everyone is duped by their own assumptions and this includes the four horsemen, the agents, the debunker, the paymaster and others.
The audience are actually entertained and involved as they have to keep up-to-date with what is happening just as much as the characters inside the film. This actually translates into the fact that the scriptwriters have managed to write a script in the action of the moment. The film has characters who think that they are ‘the smartest people in the room’ and they act like it.
The Four Horsemen themselves are engaging charismatic characters who came together as a convincing group with conflicts and a higher purpose but sadly the relationship and romance between the FBI and the female Interpol agent (old-fashioned female who is actually badly treated and does not seem to mind much) did not feel fully fledged to me.
The reviews were too variable to understand what this film was actually like. Some critics have said they could not keep up with the plot twists, others suggest that the plots are flimsy, some could even see what was coming. None of the reviews provide actual examples. I disagree with all these assertions because the plot twists are intelligent, tight and surprising while being embedded in reality. This means the fundamentals of Aristotle are completed, the main characters are real but slightly unreal, the plots and the surprising twists are embedded in reality. I would urge those critics to provide tangible examples of plot holes, flimsy plots and how they saw what was coming (evidence good, opinion not so good).
This script could be ancient Greek classic because it contained the fundamentals. The film was both logical and surprising. The plot had events derived from an unbroken chain of cause and effect which functioned well within the laws of logical probability and necessity. Aristotle recognised that the characters must be archetypes who are relevant to the role, provide a picture of their morality, be true to life and show consistency through necessity and probability again. The characters should also have an otherness. There is more on how the characters express themselves but these are the fundamentals. The film itself must come together through an holistic hole – theme.
The director of the film is Louis Leterrier. The story was by Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt originally came up with the idea and wrote the first draft with Boaz Yakin. Edward Ricourt has written other scripts which have attracted attention but this was his first film to be made. The script was written by Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt and screenplay veteran Ed Solomon (Men in Black, Bill & Ted). One of the producers loved the idea so much they actually gave script input. (Ours is a collaborative business really works!) A great interview of how the script came to be written and produced can be found here. http://preview.tinyurl.com/mbxlvml.
After Now You See Me has had its theatrical release, I look forward to breaking down the story, script and characters. I would not have gone to see Now You See Me from reading the marketing or the film’s description but the trailer convinced me it was going to be a great film. The cinema did not even have this film showing on the relevant day but I persevered .
I have written a separate piece on why Isla Fisher’s character Henley Reeves is a good example of why strong female characters work for male and female audiences To read why I think this is so, please go to wp.me/p2WOq6-6N
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