So, Now You See Me was the film about magicians. Specifically, magicians who use their skill in illusion to rob banks, which brings them to the attention of the police, so there’s a confrontation there. It was very good, extremely clever, and quite funny in places. Well acted, well directed, well written. Beware the last act though, there’s some weird stuff at the end. I recommend watching it anyway. There, review done.
Spoilers and analysis-y stuff here…
Throughout the film, there was the question of who the mastermind was behind the magician’s plot – they had been giving instructions by a mysterious benefactor, and part of the police investigation was trying to find out who this person was.
The film actually went to great lengths to suggest that it was the French Interpol Agent, Alma Dray – she had an interest in magic, and various questions were asked (but never answered) to call her allegiances to light.
In the end though, they revealed it was the policeman, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) who was the mysterious benefactor. His motivation? A dead magician, whom Alma Dray was an expert upon, was his father. And the only prior hint towards this was the hypnotist noticing he had “mommy issues. Or was it daddy?”
That’s akin to Han Solo saying “I have a friend who wears a black mask” and then turning out to have been the Emperor.
The twist came totally out of left field, and had essentially no prior set up at all. This is A Very Bad Thing. A twist should, whilst still being a surprise, have enough set up for it to make sense in hind sight. This didn’t. (There’s a famous crime writer, Ruth Rendell, who writes her novels as though the Butler did it; then, when she has finished the novel, she changes the outcome and goes backwards through the novel, tweaking it and rewriting it so the new outcome makes sense)
But the real reason this is a problem is because it devalues everything prior to the revelation. This is in part because everything Mark Ruffalo’s character did then becomes… irrelevant, but it is also because his character was the audience surrogate figure, the one who was finding out how the magic trick worked at the same time we were is why it didn’t work.
That’s what makes this twist different to, say, “Luke, I am your father” – it takes away from the film in hindsight and on repeat viewings, rather than adding a new dimension to it.
At least, I think so.