“First rule of magic: always be the smartest person in the room.”

I’ve been looking forward to this movie ever since I saw the first trailer and heard those words.

The story was quite ambitious, especially given the time frame. Only a couple of hours to pull off a plot that, frankly, probably needed three hours to do it true justice. There isn’t one moment of dead space or down time. The editing is so tight you can hear it squeak.

What I liked: The acting, the dialogue, and the idea behind the story. It’s all so well done; even the bit players have fantastic talent and dialogue to work with.

Are they really bit players, though? Watch it, and let me know what you think.

Come in closer, because the more you think you see, the easier it’ll be to fool you.

I loved the effects and the stage shows. At one point the Four Horsemen leap off a building and turn into money. Now that is a magic trick!  The entire story had the feel of a good caper, sort of like Ocean’s 11.

I love that the story was one big misdirection, or one big magic trick. I find that kind of mind twist incredibly fulfilling for days afterward as I try to unravel what I thought I saw.

What I wish they’d done better:

I wish they’d spent a bit more time with the Four Horsemen and let us see even more of their relationships and how they change and grow. These people spent a year together cooking up these tricks and stage acts. I would love to have seen some of that. No, I don’t want to see behind the curtain, but I do want to get more of their personalities. The characters were quite fun and I just wished I could spend more time with them. I also wish they’d spent more time letting the cop and the interpol lady get to know each other. It’s a romantic element that is so subtle it might as well not exist. Either go all in, or leave it out.

I wish they’d either given more information about the mysterious club called The Eye, or taken it out altogether. As it was, I didn’t think it pushed the story forward at all and really served as more of a distraction than anything. The thing about this distraction, though, is it’s supposed to be the motivation behind the actions of the Four Horsemen. The problem is that we’re not given enough information about it to really understand or care or even count it as important. This is a real conundrum, because the end of the movie rests on it. And if you don’t get it or understand it, then you won’t get the ending and you’ll feel cheated, as I notice a lot of people expressed in their reviews.

For the record, I liked it a lot. It’s an intelligent plot, and incredibly twisty in a very subtle way. Like a great magic trick, you are taken for a ride. Willingly. At the end, you’ll wonder how you didn’t see it. You might feel cheated. You might think “they told me one thing and now this? No way!”

Yes, way.

I think this movie lives up to the tagline. The closer you watch, the easier it is to fool you. Try to watch the big picture, and realize that the entire story is one, big, magic, trick, complete with assistants, fancy lights and fluffy bunnies. Just try not to follow the white rabbit so much that you lose track of the real magician. Trust me, now that I’ve pointed it out you’ll be even more likely to get caught up in the details and miss the wave of the magic wand.

I saw this with the hubby, and his reaction was similar to mine except for one thing. He didn’t like was the ending. They do all these things, and give up millions of dollars, for what, exactly? Watch it and see if you agree that the motivation was not clearly explained nor shown.

My point was that’s how all magicians end their shows. They don’t explain, they just leave the stage. But it wasn’t enough for hubby. If it was going to get all mystical, he wanted a bit more payoff. He wanted at least a glimpse behind the curtain. Either that, or remove the mystical element entirely. To be honest, the movie would have been fine without it. I suspect this is another plot issue created in the editing room.

For me the end missed one thing every good story needs: a final showdown between the antagonist and the protagonist. It should be those two on stage in one epic moment that ends the story problem with an “ahhhhh”. This, sadly, didn’t do that. Why? Well….to explain I’d have to give a spoiler and this is such an important point that I don’t want to. So instead I’ll invite you to go see it, and form your own opinion about the twist and the ending. Did it satisfy you? For hubby, the answer is a resounding no. For me, it’s eh. I can fill in the bits they left off and be satisfied with that. I’d have been happier if they had done it and just made the movie a bit longer, but such is Hollywood. I guess budget cuts land even there.

I do recommend this movie if you like mysteries, capers, an intelligent mind twisty plot, or Morgan Freeman. Let’s face it, he’s awesome in anything he undertakes and this movie was no exception.

“Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.”

Go on, look close. Tell me, what did you see?