So Daniel Atlas's opening trick... how did they make you pick the 7 of Diamonds?
When Daniel was flipping through the deck, most of the cards were flashed too quick to discern... Except for the 7 of Diamonds, which had a fraction of a second more screen time.
I actually picked the 7 of Diamonds as I was watching. Amusingly enough.
I bet most people did- I noticed a definite gasp in the audience when I saw the movie at that moment. It helps that that is a trick that works as well (if not better) on camera as it does live- and he also flips through the cards twice, making the 7 even more likely to be the one picked. (The film could have used more of "real magic" like that, IMHO.)
There's a couple of ways to do this trick. The secret is to make the 7 (or whatever card) the most clearly seen as you flip the cards fast. I've used a Svengalli Deck, which is a specially designed deck, or, when I'm on the cheap, I take about three or four sevens and I put them all together. That when when you flip through them, you think you see one 7, when you're really seeing 4 really quickly, BUT your mind picks it out as it's the clearest one you see. That's not the best way to do the trick though, nor the only way. The way I do it now, is trade secret...but yeah, bribing the electrician is also a step.
Only four cards were shown in Atlas' first pass - the 7 of diamonds was last and might've been a tad longer - it was also the only red card - but the second pass it was a lot less and from what I've read, even people who didn't pick it on the first round still picked it on the second. I wonder if it was possibly more reflective - put something on it to make it more visible and pop out at you. Then just do an appropriate shuffling technique that ensures that even when showing far less than a full deck, you still show your one card each time and it'll pop out. That's my guess anyways.
I just watched the shuffle in slow mo. It is defiantly a trick shuffle.
I just rewatched it on freeze frame... In the movie, they used the "multiple of one card" variation, as you can clearly see the pile he is holding get bigger on bottom, but the 7 stays visible for around 4/5 frames. (looking at it again, I actually think that they utilized BOTH techniques. Multiples of the card, and folding the card in front)
The card in front is bent in half, giving the 7 a moment extra as the front card. Quick palming of the half card before spreading them out and no one notices there's only 50 cards instead of (what should be) 51.
There's also the point of doing it twice. The first time is done fast so people would also have trouble picking any card at all. This makes you more likely to select the most obvious card you can the second, slower time because you don't want to miss your chance with the retry.
Jack Wilder's Getaway
When Jack was fleeing Rhodes and the police on the bridge, I can imagine the plan was, "Walk outside. Get noticed by some agents. Steal their car." OK fine. However, the amount of ludicrous preparation that whole setup would have taken raises some questions, the biggest of which to me is, "Where did they get a second standard-issue FBI car?" Did they steal that one too? How would a missing federal-issue vehicle go unnoticed long enough to put that plan into effect? There's no way a mock-up vehicle would hold up to the investigation that would have followed that crash.
To be fair, it didn't need to hold up for very long, as they seem to have finished up all their big tricks by the end of that night. All they had to do was make sure the FBI didn't look too closely, which is accomplished by giving them the lead to the big safe they were targeting, and by the time they figure out there was a switch everybody has disappeared and the mission has been accomplished. And, of course, the man investigating them turned out to be in on it.
^The last line here is the most important- although the Horsemen didn't know it, their benefactor, the "5th Horseman," was Rhodes, the FBI agent investigating them. Among the various instructions he gave them (their targets, the plans, etc.) was probably instructions on how to get a car that was identical to a standard-issue FBI car, whether it was actually one or not (I assume the standard-issue is probably just a slightly-modified standard car, like police vehicles). Plus, the car blew up real good, so it would probably take a day or two to realize it wasn't a real FBI car- much like the body inside would eventually be identified as not being the magician. Since their plan was finishing up that night, the "trick" didn't have to stand up to close scrutiny. I was surprised, though, that the helicopter filming the chase didn't catch the switch- or that no one noticed a NYC bus with a car attached to the front bumper!
Ever been on the highway and look over in the next lane thinking, "Wow, that guy is tail-gating very close!", only to get a closer look and realize the car is actually attached to a trailer hitch on the front of the MTA bus? The idea that people could miss the car being attached at the bumper is actually not that far-fetched, especially in rush hour traffic. The helicopter also had a bad vantage point, being on the other side of the bridge (though closer inspection of the recording probably would reveal it, which, again, they didn't have time for). Weird though, I somehow missed that the escape and the final trick were done in the same day.
It's possible due to Rhodes having been in on it the "fake" FBI was actually a legitimate vehicle stolen for use in this particular chase. Also, as for identifying the corpse as Jack Wylder, that probably wouldn't have been possible. The body was obliterated in the explosion and the authorities likely did not have DNA evidence with which to identify it. Perhaps, had Rhodes been able to pull the body from the wreck before the explosion they could have discerned that it was, in fact, a decoy. But the Horsemen were likely assured this would not be an issue.
The Stolen Money
Even if the Horsemen stole the money from Tressler's account, no one they gave it to would get to keep it. Wouldn't the assets be frozen as evidence in an ongoing investigation or something like that?
I feel like Tressler felt humiliated and he didn't want to launch a legal thing because then the event turns from "corporate giant willingly gives people back money in this heartfelt magic show" to "a bunch of magicians champion for the poor and oppressed of New Orleans, bonafide Robin Hoods, and the corporate giant idiot tries to stomp them out after being outsmarted".
That's a thing many movies do, and it irks me as well. Usually retracting a fraudulent transfer is as simple as calling the bank. No legal action required. Then again, note that they weren't really giving away their stolen money in the last heist either. Their main purpose was to humiliate Tressler, not to distribute the money. Also, those in the audience who realized the situation could still withdraw their money to cash before the transfer was reverted. Tressler also doesn't seem too concerned about his lost money when sitting at the bar, more about his humiliation.
I would think getting back that much money would definitely be worth being seen as a villain. He's a millionaire business owner, he's probably used to it.
This is pure hand-waving speculation, but... Bradley is a magician himself, perhaps to avoid situations like when they were questioning the Four Horsemen, they went with the most basic, low-tech cell they could find?
Or it was an NYPD holding cell. Depending on the part of the city they needed to keep him in? Possible that they had cells like that just lying around.
I was under the impression it wasn't. The key that Rhodes gives Alma looks like the key his "cop" friends locked the cage with, and really there are no special "rusty-barred, dingy Saw-like prison cells" (a very apt description) like that in FBI installations...and even if there were, Rhodes, disgraced and likely drummed out of the FBI, wouldn't have access to them. The implication I got, especially with the oh so convenient arrival of the NYPD cops to handcuff Bradley was that the Eye decided (or more likely, Rhodes, Atlas, Mc Kinney et al decided) to lock him away in a cell somewhere... to die a slow, painful and lonely death. Just like his father did. Yikes.
The Horsemen's Symbol
What exactly does it mean? Is it supposed to be a wonky number four or something?
It was the symbol they found on the floor with the plans. The film makers probably picked it out of the air.
It is a stylized 4H for four horsemen. Not to be confused with another 4H that is out there.
To me it looked like just five squares attached to a line... implying a fifth member.
Those are all equally valid observations. I personally didn't notice it was a stylized 4H until the penultimate scene in New York where the platform they were standing on had an even further stylized rendition meant to resemble street graffiti.
Leaving Rhodes out of it for the moment, do the Four Horsemen really qualify as Anti-Villains? Sure they don't keep the money they steal but they are doing their robberies with the intention of getting a very significant reward rather than simply out of some sense of social justice. What's more they apparently had no problem framing Bradley without knowing why their sponsor hated him him so much - remember they had no clue Rhodes was behind everything, let alone that it was part of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
Remember: Bradley had made a career out of discrediting and exposing magicians. The Horsemen probably had no problem framing him because he made EVERY magician look bad, and Rhodes simply was trying to give him a trick he would never figure out.
That's true but it's also a pretty severe case of Disproportionate Retribution; Bradley might be a Jerkass but what he was doing was completely legal and framing him didn't directly help anyone in the way robbing Tressler or the bank did. Again Rhodes has a legitimate reason to hate Bradley, regardless of whether his actions are justified or not. The Four Horsemen have no legitimate personal excuse.
Another fact of the matter is that Bradley's actions led to a man's death and he changed nothing about his methodology. There was no regret, no remorse, nothing. And he takes people's livelihoods away, who knows if there's been another Shrike in his history that just went out in a less ostentatious way? Just because an action is legal doesn't mean it's not wrong. The way this entire thing was set-up, if Bradley hadn't be so eager to go after the Horseman, he never would have gotten tangled in the con. Dylan and the Horseman did nothing to invite him into this mess aside from taunt him when their paths naturally crossed. I'd go so far as to say that was a deliberate part of the plan, so that Bradley truly had no one but himself to blame all those years in jail.
But the FBI sought him out as an expert in debunking magicians! He didn't go after the Four Horsemen of his own volition, he was guided to them. His appearance at their first act in Vegas was nothing more than his doing his job. As for his actions leading to a man's death, that's a pretty silly way to assign blame; Bradley had nothing to do with Shrike's idea to lock himself in a safe and be dumped in a river. Even Elkhorn could be argued to have been involved if they sponsored the stunt and then provided a faulty safe but all Bradley did was his exact job. All magicians deal with people who want to debunk them.
Bradley pissed off "the Eye." Enough said...
But there are indications that the Horsemen knew about Shrike, the laundry chute had a huge piece of debris with his name on it and they're looking for the Shrike tree at the end of the movie, indicating they know why they had the three targets they received. Plus, as badass as they are, I can't see them striking out at these people for no reason, and the Shrike story seems to be pretty well-known. This is no worse than like Team Leverage going after people for someone else.
But again the Horsemen are not acting out of the goodness of their hearts; they are acting with the knowledge they'll get a huge reward (revelations about real magic.) Their cover makes them appear to be Anti Villains or even Anti Heroes but they are essentially paid mercenaries fulfilling someone's private vendetta while masquerding as Robin Hood types.
They qualify as Type I Anti-Villains with shades of Type III; yes, they are selfish and driven primarily by fun and profit, but they do seem to genuinely believe that their marks were Asshole Victims who had it coming and seem to truly enjoy entertaining people; they also don't actually hurt anyone and seem to go out of their way to avoid that (the movie wants you to ignore things like the car chase and anything else that involved reckless endangerment of other peoples' lives; we're supposed to believe that the Horsemen are just that good at avoiding hurting people). Anti-Villain is more than just Well-Intentioned Extremist.
Having Bradley's car so stuffed with money that it bursts out upon mere unlocking is visually enjoyable. But surely any court would realize that if Bradley had been part of the operation, he wouldn't do that? After all, what would this hypothetical Bradley's plan be — somehow drive off in a car with literally no room for a driver and no visibility, while dollar bills go flying behind him?
My impression was that the framing was never intended to stick - it was merely to embarrass Bradley and give Rhodes the opportunity for his reveal. Everything that was done was intended to be ephemeral.
That or it was merely a front for Rhodes to trick Bradley into thinking he was being arrested, when in reality Rhodes was taking him captive and leaving him locked in an abandoned jail cell to die.
Except Rhodes was escorted to the cell by guards, and Bradley probably would have questioned being locked in an abandoned prison when talking to Rhodes.
The guards may have been hired help. It is odd that they would lock Dylan in with a prisoner and then completely leave. I'm assuming they were in on it.
How did Merritt hypnotize an entire audience to partake in a philharmonic upon hearing the word "Bullshit?" Did Merritt also manage to single out Bradley who they knew would be in the audience, and hypnotize him to not question being imprisoned? It was mentioned Merritt can hypnotize people on the phone. Maybe somewhere offscreen, he gave Bradley a call.
Fuller says only "half the audience" was hypnotized into thinking they were in the philharmonic orchestra. Only half. Obviously Bradley was not in the half that did get hypnotized.
To shoot or not
Rhodes expresses strong anger with Alma Dray for not shooting Atlas, but that's not really what he would want. Of course, he has to put on an act for her, but why does he take the risk that she would decide doing her job better must mean shooting first?
He might actually be ruthless enough to risk it; the film is ambiguous over whether getting the Four Horsemen into the Eye is his main aim (and screwing over Tressler and Bradley is just a happy bonus) or whether they are essentially disposable pawns in his revenge plot.
Seductor or deductress?
There are only two things that bug me from this movie, pieces that I cannot place in the puzzle. One is: How could Dylan get the case in the first place? He's implied to be in a top case... but they insisted on giving him this one (You can try to explain it with "Mentalism".) But the big one is: What did Alma see in Dylan? He hasn't been acting suave, charming, nor giving her attention, he has been dismissing her almost constantly... and she has been trying to seduce him, calling him "sincere" and things like that. And she has known him for only a week! Of course everybody thought she was the fifth horseman! Her actions don't make the slightest sense to me!
(You can try to explain it with "Mentalism"). Merritt began the interrogation with "Is it your first date?". Surely, the horsemen's instructions probably were given in lines of "Try to mess up with the interrogators as much as you can, total mindscrew is preferrable", but Alma could have begun thinking of it as of a real first date, ignoring many logical arguments. Also, the "I couldn't predict you"-like line from the final scene sounds like a Cliche Incarnate, doesn't seem appropriate for a mastermind behind the whole scene, AND doesn't make sense, because Alma's appearance was logically caused by the robbery, and also later she helps him during a car chase scene, thus allowing him to witness the crash, imitating heroic save attempt and so on. And after she was playing right to his plans all the time, he comes back with a blatant lie - maybe he's feeling guilty for making her (accidentally?) fall in love with him, or just likes and prefers to keep her, which would be harder, does she not know his real identity. Or it's all a part of a next even greater plan, which we can't see due to looking too closely on the movie's current plot.
Although it's only Thaddeus Bradley's guess, the first heist is "revealed" to be an armored truck job. This, however, raises just as many questions. First of all, how did they substitute the armored truck for one with a trap that two people would hide in? Secondly, how did they deal with the other guards in the truck, and please not some corny "mentalism" thing? How did they even deal with whoever would have been monitoring their progression along the route, since none of them can even fake French decently over the radio? Thirdly, how did they get the 5 million Euros back to Las Vegas in what must have been less than 10 hours, without anybody noticing? Fourthly, this trip must have come up on even the most routine background check before the FBI interrogated them. That Dylan ignores this fact because he's behind it all can just about be hand-waived, but in what alternate reality would the French agent from Interpol not be interested in asking them what they did, why they spent so long there and so forth? A fifth question is how they made good enough "fake money" to fool whoever put the money in the safe, and how they get around whatever anti-theft measures the transport company was using to protect the cash (IBNS, etc.)? The explanation is so poor that it's almost less believable than believing in the magic trick.
The second heist doesn't even get a logical explanation beyond "magic", perhaps with a vague implication of "computers". The explanation is basically that David Atlas' (Jesse Essenbergs') poor attempts at mentalism a few hours before the show revealed the answers to his bank accounts' security questions, which enabled them to transfer the funds (or something like that). Does Arthur Tressler not have assistants, account managers at his bank, and so forth who would actually manage his finances for him? Wouldn't he have his assets in structured holdings so as to minimize his tax profile, which would mean most of the money isn't even available on such short notice? Of course, a detailed explanation of how his accounts are structured wouldn't be particularly compelling, but if the explanation is just that they logged onto his bank's website and set up the thousand or so wire transfers, that's almost as implausible as it being the heat of the lamps that's bouncing around tens of thousands of dollars to each person in the audience.
A telephone call with Jack Wylder imitating Tressler's voice to his bank managers to bring a couple of large investments to maturity. He might have wanted bucket-loads of cash available to pay for the Horseman's setup for that show. Presumably the list of people & how much they are owed is supplied with the blueprints for the entire thing, and they have a computer file ready to upload as a direct bank transfer.
The third heist is rationalized entirely with the idea that the safe was hidden behind a mirror. How did they get a similar safe (if Dylan bought it along with everything else, he's the best-paid federal agent ever, even if he saved every cent since he was 12) or replica of the safe? Was the safe not under video surveillance? Or any part of the building? Bringing in a 10m across mirror with structures to hold it can't just be hand-waved with "Mentalism on everybody". How come the people that aren't directly in line with the middle of the mirror don't notice the huge beams reflecting off the mirror in a weird manner (when performed, the magic trick relies on moving the box so that people can't (or don't) notice the fact that the internal geometry of the box isn't right, unlike here where the "box" is laid out for all to see, without any possibility of hiding the geometrical anomalies)?
So how did they do that one? They're too close to the audience for holography or mirrors to fake the fact that they're on the actual roof, and seemingly jumping off it.
It did say they needed a "leap of faith" to join The Eye.
Watch the whole sequence again. When the rippling square effect is being projected onto the building, and then ceases, as the FBI are looking up at it, you momentarily see a helicopter shining a light in the exact same place...almost as if it was projecting the effect. Then, when the Horsemen make their leap, you see the exact same helicopter hovering just a little bit away from where they make their jump. Maybe The Eye's tech is powerful enough to remote control a helicopter.
The Fifth Horseman's Membership
As a rule, the Eye seems to only hire stage magicians, so how did Rhodes, an apparent FBI Agent, get into it? Unless Lionel Shrike was also a member, and the Eye are fans of nepotism, there's no way Rhodes could become a prominent enough magician to attract their attention without ruining the impression of a magic-hating FBI grump.
My understanding is that Rhodes made up, or at the very least instituted the Eye. There never was an Eye before Rhodes put his plan into action. A real world example would be if he had used "The Illuminati". The organization may or may not exist, but he was just using the name for his own ends.
Perhaps, in this case, the Eye is more a surreal concept used by magicians in order to pull off large scale heists rather than being a significant underground organization. This would basically mean that membership is more a wink between magicians than having any official affiliation.
It's part and parcel of Secret Societies that they have members in position of power. If Rhodes was raised by the Eye after his father died, he'd be the perfect asset in the FBI to divert investigations or give them information for their tricks. and all they'd have to do is avenge his father.
Who is Alma? She claims to be an Interpol agent but later admits she is a researcher (of what exactly?), has some skill in disarming Rhodes and is fascinated by magic.
She is an Interpol agent, but this case is her first time "off the desk". She's never been in the field before, but she is an Interpol agent.
How exactly did Rhodes make sure he was the one initially called about the case?
Being a master magician, he likely used mentalist tricks similar to Merritt's to subtly convince the FBI to put him on the case.
The teleported trick drops an unsuspecting audience member an entire storey straight down onto a hard floor with nothing to slow him down. How did he not injure himself?
This one actually has a logical, Truth in Television explanation, if you stretch it a bit. Most injuries actually come from people falling improperly, and can be prevented with a little bit of training, re: stuntmen. The unsuspecting audience member had been hypnotized and most magic tricks are built to be safe for someone who doesn't understand what is going on, so hypothetically, there might have been some sort of brace we didn't see along with the posthypnotic suggestion to fall but brace himself in the correct manner. Remember, this audience member was basically an unknowing shill who had been prepped way ahead of time.