Published on July 23rd, 2013 | by Allan Brown4
Movie Review: Trance (2013)
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel
Plot: Danny Boyle’s Trance follows Simon, a fine-art auctioneer who schemes with a group of criminals in an attempt to steal a painting. When all goes wrong, Simon now suffering amnesia seeks help from a hypnotherapist in an attempt to recover the lost masterpiece.
Over the past few years it would safe to say that British director Danny Boyle has had a diary schedule that could rival the queen’s. Since his monster hit Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 with he has continued to surprise and delight audiences with the diversity of projects he has chosen, jumping from one genre to the next with ease, style and originality. Riding his continued wave of success he has brought us 127 Hours starring James “between a rock and a hard place” Franco, the National Theatre’s adaptation of Frankenstein, the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics and the announcement he will be directing the Irvine Welsh Trainspotting sequel, Porno. Now, whilst everyone else was marvelling at the work he did on the national stage last year, he, at the same time, was busy working his latest picture, Trance. Take a breather Mr Boyle, you deserve it.
On the surface Trance is a slick and ambitious psychological thriller that offers a non-stop thrill ride of twists and turns, action and sex embodied in an alluring snapshot of London. Danny Boyle’s back catalogue speaks for itself and he has assured his position as one of the most visually exciting directors of our time, however, Trance gives way to style over substance and in doing so falls a little short in storytelling.
Our story follows Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art associate at an auction house who has got himself into a gambling debt he cannot repay (at least on his salary). He looking for a way out seeks and conspires with Franck (Vincent Cassel), a local and opportunistic gangster, to steal a priceless Goya painting Witches in the Air. Needless to say the heist goes wrong, Simon suffers a knock on the head that in turn causes amnesia, and the painting disappears. Franck and his men attempt to jog Simon’s memory with some old-fashioned torture methods, without success. So they turn to hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to utilize a more subtle method of extraction. If Elizabeth can crack Simon’s subconscious to find where he hid the painting (assuming he has), everybody wins: Franck get the painting, Elizabeth gets a cut of its sale, and Simon gets to live. Or maybe not……
The script is tight, well polished and keeps you guessing what cards it’s holding, and who exactly is holding them throughout, with its moments of revelation often genuinely surprising. McAvoy continues to impresses and evolve as an actor with each role and offers a unique charm as our protagonist Simon. From his opening voice-over he immediately hooks us and draws us in. The film is told in the first person and through the eyes of Simon, this helps the audience immediately connect with him. The fact that we know as much as he does at any given moment is a well calculated move and a real credit to the writers. When he is confused, we are confused, when he is surprised so are we and of course we are sympathetic when he is a victim. Rosario Dawson’s performance as Elizabeth, the hypnotherapist is notable at times and her character arch through the story is worth mention. However, the star of the show is Cassel who gives us a most interesting character: a charismatic criminal and sympathetic villain in Franck, his presence is both charming and dark and a joy to watch.
Anthony Dod Mantle returns as cinematographer and his beautiful visuals along with Boyle’s signature style and trademarks truly sizzle on screen. Its slick, its striking and its glossy but unfortunately this is all just superficial and not enough to make it the classic it could have been.
Summary: Trance is a well crafted, high paced, complicated thriller that sears with visual flare. Sadly its downfall is its chaotic arrangement (which will undoubtedly cause confusion in audiences) and its choice of style over substance that leaves you feeling Danny Boyle might have just been trying a little too hard this time.