In 1928, a globally famous Magic (illusion), Wei Ling Soo, performs in front of a crowd in Berlin with his world-class magic act. As he walks off stage the film audience sees that he is actually a British man named Stanley (Colin Firth). He berates his employees and is generally curmudgeonly towards his well-wishers. In his dressing-room, he is greeted by old friend and fellow illusionist Howard Burkan (Simon McBurney). Howard enlists Stanley to go with him to the French Riviera where a rich American family, the Catledges, has apparently been taken in by a clairvoyant and mystic, Sophie (Emma Stone). In fact, the son of the family, Brice (Hamish Linklater), is smitten with Sophie, and his sister Caroline (Erica Leerhsen) and brother-in-law George (Jeremy Shamos) are concerned Brice is considering proposing marriage. Howard says that he has been unable to uncover the secrets behind her tricks and he admits that the more he watched her the more he believed she really has supernatural powers. So he would like Stanley, who has debunked charlatan mystics in the past, to help him prove she is a fraud.