“Look close. Because the closer you look, the less you will actually see”, says Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley — who is an ex-magician, now a professional magic debunker. It’s all illusion, of course, no matter how impossible it looks. But how do they do it? To their packed audience they announce the fact they are sending a man (picked at random from the numbered seats) to rob a bank across the world, and return. With the money. And — presto — the deed is done.
But this is just the beginning. Their sleight of hand hides a mysterious purpose destined to reveal long-buried secrets. And all the while their audiences are literally showered with money. Talk about a PR coup on any competition! And in this gambling game with the authorities, the illusionists are holding all the cards.
“You realize, of course, this is a game, played out on a global scale,” says Morgan Freeman.
And as Sherlock Holmes so iconically says, “The game is afoot.” It is a race against time for FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol Agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). And with time itself in the hands of the illusionists, the agents stay busy chasing only . . . illusions. Agent Rhodes, always confused, disgusted, and angry, barely keeps his temper in check, prompting a question from his Interpol partner:
Dray: Is it magicians in general you have a problem with? Or specifically these guys?
Rhodes: I could care less about magicians in general. What I hate is people who exploit other people.
Dray: Exploit them how?
Rhodes: By taking advantage of their weaknesses. Their need to believe in something that’s unexplainable in order to make their lives more bearable.
In spite of mixed reviews, this fascinating and mysterious plot line would be enough in itself to be brain-teasing and entertaining. But add Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine as the wealthy Arthur Tressler, and Woody Haralson as magician Merritt McKinney into the blend, and you’ve got a movie that moves on up the scale to a super-charged, high-octane thriller.