Top 5 movie magicians
- Niki Boyle
- 3 June 2013
It's a bit risky putting a film that's not been reviewed yet in a Top 5 list, but we're so taken with the cast and concept behind Now You See Me, we're willing to go out on a limb. Jesse Eisenberg heads up a group of magicians who call themselves The Four Horsemen - and who specialise in performing live banks heists in front of paying audiences, who are then showered with the proceeds. Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson and Inglourious Basterds' Melanie Laurent make up the rest of the cast alongside a certain Sir Michael Caine - surely a talismanic presence in any film featuring magic ever since his performance in...
Christopher Nolan's story of rival conjurers is a high-water mark in both Nolan's own career and in films about magic in general. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale (who had already helped deliver the first part in Nolan's epic Dark Knight trilogy) play the battling mages in a film that nimbly obeys the first rule of magic as it preaches it: misdirection is everything.
We don't think we're giving away any massive spoilers by saying that, at the end of Oz the Great and Powerful, James Franco stays on as the ruler of the Emerald City - it was a foregone conclusion ever since Frank Morgan had picked up the same character's story 74 years earlier. Modern audiences may have left cinemas wondering what happened to the Wizard in the interim; the answer, of course, is set about safeguarding the Wizard's real identity by creating three bureaucratic busybodies to waylay any visitors, all played by the Wizard himself.
The leading man in Sylvain Chomet's whimsical animation isn't actually that great a trickster - his glory days are behind him, with grand Parisian theatres having given way to tiny pubs in remote Scottish villages. It's the spell he casts over impressionable island girl Alice that endears him to the audience, however, even if we do suspect it's not the healthiest of relationships.
There's a lot going on in Shane Black's riotous film noir pastiche, so it might be easy to forget that Harry Lockhart (played in his older incarnation by a never-better Robert Downey Jr) was, in his younger days, a budding magician. 'The Amazing Harold' never really took off, but his skill at sleight of hand (as well as a fondness for his glamourous assistant) definitely served him well in later life.