‘Now You See Me’ Ending Explained


The Big Picture

  • In Now You See Me, the thrill comes from not knowing how the intricate heists and magic tricks are achieved, allowing us to create our own theories.
  • Agent Dylan Rhodes is not who he claims to be, but is actually seeking revenge for his father’s death as a disgraced magician.
  • The Four Horsemen target institutions and individuals who wrong others, using their magic tricks to redistribute wealth and gain access to The Eye of Horus secret society.

In a way, heist movies and magic tricks are a lot alike: at the same time we claim to want to know how things are done, we derive more pleasure from the experience of not knowing. Being in the dark not only allows us to be amazed, it also gives us the opportunity to create our own theories about how someone could pull off such an intricate deception. In Louis Leterrier‘s Now You See Me, heist and magic come together to create a story so full of twists and turns that it can be hard to keep up, even if you are watching very closely. After all, the closer you look — the movie tells you — the more prone you are to being duped. But even with all the carpet-pulls and sleights of hand that fill this 2013 thriller, nothing prepares audiences for the film’s ultimate reveal. In the end, our questions have less to do with how our protagonists set up their complex schemes and more with what they stood to gain from them. But perhaps the most important question of all is who exactly our heroes are, because at least one of the characters in Now You See Me isn’t who they claim to be.

In its first few minutes, Now You See Me introduces four magicians trying to make a living through legal or illegal means. After they each receive a tarot card (The Lovers, The High Priestess, The Hermit, and Death, respectively) from a mysterious, hooded figure, card master J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), and jack-of-all-trades Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) join forces to become one of the biggest magic acts in the world, known as the Four Horsemen. In dazzling performances, made possible by millionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), the Horsemen make their audiences richer by staging state-of-the-art heists such as robbing a bank on a completely different continent and emptying their own benefactor’s bank account. Such schemes call the attention of the FBI and former magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who now makes a living out of exposing illusionists of all kinds. After their inaugural act, the FBI puts together a taskforce to investigate the Horsemen, led by agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol envoy Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent).

Now You See Me

An F.B.I. Agent and an Interpol Detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances, and reward their audiences with the money.

Release Date
May 29, 2013

Louis Leterrier

Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent



Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Mark Ruffalo’s Agent Dylan Rhodes Is on the Hunt for the Horsemen

Throughout the movie, Rhodes and Dray try and fail to catch the Four Horsemen, who are always one step ahead of the people investigating them. Their level of strategic advantage eventually leads the force to consider the existence of a fifth horseman acting behind the scenes. And, indeed, as the ending of Now You See Me reveals, Atlas, Reeves, McKinney, and Wilder do have a secret ally. They, however, are such a mystery that not even the Four Horsemen know their identity. After framing Bradley for the last heist, they go to their final meeting spot at Central Park, only to be greeted by none other than Agent Rhodes himself.

It turns out that Rhodes isn’t a regular FBI agent, but actually the son of a disgraced magician that has been planning his revenge since his father’s untimely death. His father, Lionel Shrike, died locked in a safe at the bottom of a river, trying to pull off an escape trick that would put him back on the map after Bradley ruined his act. Framing Bradley for the heist of the Elkhorn safe is the final act of Dylan’s revenge plan, which he enacts when he first joins the FBI many years before the film’s plot. He is the mysterious man that brings the Horsemen together, and the one that gives them the guidance they need to pull off their stunts. And he does it all from the shadows. Bradley and the Horsemen are all so blinded by their own pride, so sure that they are smarter than everyone else in the room, that they never suspect Rhodes as being anyone other than an incapable agent that has no idea who or what he is messing with.

Rhodes’ entire personality throughout the film is nothing but a carefully crafted stage persona, we learn in the final scenes. After Bradley is found with the Elkhorn money in his car — planted there by the Four Horsemen, of course — Rhodes visits him in jail and, after engaging him in a long conversation about Shrike, reveals that he is in fact the disgraced magician’s son. This scene connects perfectly with the movie’s title; for the first time since the plot kicks off, Bradley sees Rhodes for who he truly is. Likewise, for the first time since he ruined Shrike’s life, Bradley sees the true effects of his deeds, the very real and innocent people that he harmed. Now You See Me, in this case, sounds like a line that could have come out of Rhodes’ mouth.


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The Horsemen Choose Their Targets Very Specifically in ‘Now You See Me’

Thaddeus Bradley isn’t the only party affected by Rhodes’ revenge. The plan concocted by Shrike’s son has a just dessert intended for each and every agent that had a hand in the magician’s death and his family’s ruin. Crédit Républicain is the institution that has a hand in denying Shrike’s family his life insurance. As such, they are the first to account for their actions during the bank heist in the Horsemen’s first Vegas act. Though the audience is convinced that the company is chosen at random, the Horsemen act for over a year to plant the idea of going to their show in the mind of one of the bank’s clients. Once at the show, said client is led to believe that he has been teleported into the bank’s safe to rob it, while in reality, the Horsemen rob the money long before.

Tressler Insurance, the company owned by the Horsemen’s great benefactor, similarly has a hand in not paying the Shrikes’ insurance. For this reason, in their New Orleans show, Atlas, Reeves, McKinney, and Wilder tap into Arthur Tressler’s bank account and give his money away to victims of the Katrina hurricane, another group of people his company has left behind. They gain access to Tressler’s account by performing mentalism tricks on him, eventually forcing him to disclose personal information such as his mother’s maiden name and the name of his first pet.

Elkhorn is the only company the Horsemen rob that doesn’t have its money distributed to others. That doesn’t mean, however, that the safe manufacturer doesn’t have its share of involvement in Shrike’s demise. As Dylan explains to Alma in their final conversation, Elkhorn used to be extremely careless with the quality of their products. It is one of their defective safes that Shrike uses in his failed escape trick, one that is deformed and rendered inescapable as soon as it is dropped into the water.

What Is the Eye of Horus?

Jesse Eisenberg holding cards in Now You See Me
Image via Lionsgate

While Rhodes gathers the Four Horsemen to enact his revenge, Atlas, Reeves, McKinney, and Wilder follow along in order to join a secret society of magicians called The Eye of Horus, or simply, The Eye. First mentioned in the film by Bradley during the recording of one of his videos, The Eye is first set up by illusionists in Ancient Egypt that used their skills to steal food from the pharaohs and give it away to the poor. This Robin Hood-esque nature of the society is the reason why almost all the tricks performed by the Horsemen involve redistributing wealth. At the end of the movie, the Horsemen gain access to the secret society by none other than Dylan Rhodes. The year they spend between receiving their tarot cards and pulling off their final heist is, for them, nothing but a long initiation ceremony.

Said initiation takes place near a tree in Central Park, where the Horsemen meet Rhodes at the end of Now You See Me. It’s a tree that holds significance to Rhodes for being the place in which his father performs his first big magic trick. In its hollow, the card Shrike uses to perform his trick is preserved as a sign that the place isn’t important just to Rhodes, but seemingly to the Eye as well. Uniting the four tarot cards that they receive from Dylan at the movie’s onset, Atlas, Reeves, McKinney, and Wilder activate Shrike’s tree, turning on a carousel that serves as a doorway to the Eye. The activation is what finally causes Rhodes to step forward, welcoming the Four Horsemen into the secret society.

It’s as a magic trick that Now You See Me finally wraps up. The movie draws us in as if we’re watching an illusionist performance, begging us to look closely at its many twists and turns, assuring us that that’s where something amazing will happen. But the real magic trick — Rhodes’ revenge — takes place elsewhere, not just in the elaborate heists performed by the Four Horsemen, but also in Dylan’s own “investigation.” It’s in his performance as a clueless agent; in the years that go by before the movie’s plot; in the machinations of a society that is ever-present; and yet the magic only truly rears its head in the very final moments. Because, like in a good magic trick, we can’t see the workings of Dylan’s revenge until the last minute, when we learn of them in a Thaddeus Bradley-like explanation.

Now You See Me is available to stream on Max in the U.S.

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