I am speechless. I am literally going to have a hard time writing this. Because right now, having just come out of the movie, all I can think of is…THAT. WAS. AMAAAAAAZIIIIIIIIIING!!!!!!!
Unlike the first one where I practically knew nothing about what was coming, this time, I had high expectations. (An unavoidable consequence of having been wowed so immensely by the first film) So high in fact that I was afraid I was setting myself up for a letdown. But no, this movie met and exceeded all of my expectations. From the crafty action beats, intricate plots, and charming characters, to the twists, turns, misdirection, and grand reveals – every meticulously planned aspect of this film was pure magic!
The Four Horsemen have gained notoriety for using their magic to oust white collar crimes (and put on a hellova show too, of course) and now they’re back with their next big performance. But as they embark on their appointed mission, a shadowy figure is pulling the strings from behind their curtains. It’s magician vs. magician, skill vs. skill, intellect vs. intellect, as the Horsemen face off against a formidable opponent who seems to know everything inside the four illusionists’ bag of tricks!
There’s a thoughtful focus on the two main narratives (one involving the Horsemen, and another with Ruffalo’s Dylan Rhodes) and a deliberate pace and balance between its action and mystery beats. For a 2-hour movie, the whole thing goes by pretty quickly and with an easy rhythm. But I understand the critics have not been kind to the sequel, mostly stemming from the ridiculousness of what the movie tries to pass off as actual practical magic, but I was unaffected. I genuinely had a fun time with it!
Is any of the magic here real? Probably not. A few of them, maybe, because you’ve seen them or variations of them before, but some were just damn near preposterous and done with an excess of CGI (albeit seamless ones). But should that diminish your level of enjoyment in any way? Absolutely not. Just like any good magic trick, this film requires some suspension of disbelief. The more skeptical you are, the harder it is to appreciate the trick. So roll with it. Just sit back and enjoy the spectacle. Believe.
Because that’s what Now You See Me 2 was like – one giant magic trick. Its plot teases, seduces, distracts, misleads, and then ultimately sets you up for the big payoff. Your eyes are glued to the screen from start to finish, trying your best not to miss anything while trying to figure out how the tricks are being done, or who is playing whom. There was a certain joy in trying to find the answers in the film’s details, and it’s doubly satisfying once they’re finally revealed (and you find out it still subverts all your expectations.)
It’s Ocean’s Eleven, if Ocean’s Eleven had semi-plausible superpowers. The film embodies a similar suave and intellect, while adding the razzle dazzle of a superhero flick. Basically the two things that made the first movie such a joy to watch in the first place. But NYSM2 is not a mere repeat; it’s a natural progression of what’s come before.
The sequel retains most of what made the first movie work thematically, but it also exhibits growth in both the story and its characters. Dylan, for example, starts off as the FBI agent he was in the first movie before being revealed as the Horsemen’s unseen grandmaster. And as easy as it is to stick to that formula, the film quickly evolves Dylan’s roll from inside man to frantic protector. His backstory is fleshed out, and there is a sense that his past is not as black and white as the first film made it out to be.
The progression was even more apparent with Merritt and Jack who were both learning each other’s trades, trying to be more than a one trick pony. It’s a seemingly negligible side story at first but it plays out surprisingly substantially by the end.
Speaking of the characters, while the energetic and flashy, “magic” craft and the intriguing mystery elements are the film’s main course, it’s the characters, their performances, witty banter and strong chemistry that really accentuate this crime caper’s entertainment value. All the characters, from Eisenberg’s Daniel Atlas to Freeman’s Thaddeus Bradley gives the film its perpetually slick and confident undercurrent.
I especially loved Ruffalo’s performance, as Dylan dances a thin line of poise and desperation. Dave Franco’s Jack Wilder is still a fan favorite, with his naïve charm and sleight-of-hand skills. Lizzy Caplan’s Lula replaces Isla Fisher’s Henley as the female horseman, but fits right in with the crew like a glove. She certainly has the most personality in the group. And Woody Harrelson…I’ll avoid giving too much away but suffice to say that he delivered an amusingly unexpected, VERY versatile performance.
Even Daniel Radcliffe’s Walter Marby was fun to watch. I’m not sure if the trailers already gave away his role in the story, so similarly, I’ll avoid accidentally spoiling you. But it was because of him that I really felt the stakes get higher, and the threat to the Horsemen more daunting.
Said intensified rivalry between The Horsemen and their adversaries also amped up the all the crafty “magic” acts. The spy trade in their first heist, that nifty pat down scene, anytime someone gets hypnotized, they were the best parts of the movie! It was wildly improbable, yet also wildly entertaining!
Now You See Me 2 will tickle your mind with its sneaky, twisty-turny plot and captivate you with its glitzy, cleverly-engineered illusions and wickedly cool characters – pretty much the same reasons the first movie was such a hit. But NYSM 2 is definitely not limited to that. It’s a step up and a step forward for the franchise and I’m hoping they still have more up their sleeves to pull out a third installment because Now You See Me 2 was absolutely magical!