Boyle’s latest might just be too trippy and heady for mainstream audiences, but it is an assured effort that will bound to get people talking.
Dir. Danny Boyle
2013 | UK | Crime/Drama/Thriller | 101 mins | 2.35:1 | English
M18 (passed clean) for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images, and language
Cast: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson
Plot: An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
(Reviewed in theatres – first published on 9 Apr 2013)
Trance plays with your mind. It toys with your grey matter and leaves you confounded. It is Danny Boyle’s latest, and it is one of his better films in his eclectic filmography. Like Nolan’s Inception (2010), Trance complicates matters with a narrative that could be described as a loose plotting of reality, dreams and memories without a reliable narrator.
James McAvoy plays the ‘lead’ as Simon, who steals a valuable painting from an auction. Franck (played by an aggressive Vincent Cassel) hunts him down and forces him to reveal the location of the stolen painting with the help of a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson).
Hypnotherapy is a tricky narrative device that is used by Boyle to construct forms of realities, or to be more precise, hyper-realities that allow this crime-mystery to flourish visually. Boyle expectedly gives his film a kinetic makeover as he usually does for many of his works. The marriage between quick cuts, sharp and saturated cinematography, and music that explodes into an energetic range of beats and rhythms is near sublime.
Boyle is possibly one of the most distinctive British filmmakers working today, with much of his body of work leaning towards edgy fare rather than the conventional and serious kind of British cinema characterized by period biopics.
“Do you want to remember or do you want to forget?”
Trance is violent and can be quite disturbing to the uninitiated. Those who have seen the red-band trailer will know what I mean. Boyle’s direction remains strong despite the twisting (and occasionally twisted) narrative and shifting central characters (i.e. the leading character can change from Simon to Franck to Elizabeth at any point in time) that threaten to confuse audiences not expecting to put on their thinking caps.
The opening heist sequence is masterfully executed, and I like how the heist recedes into the narrative as timely flashbacks throughout the film, and functions as more than just a shaper of circumstances – it works as a trigger mechanism that unleashes in full force the essence of the film, in particular the notion of the forgotten memory.
Trance is not a sci-fi film. It sounds like one, but no, it is still rooted in the conventions of the psychological thriller. There is a neo-noirish feel with Dawson’s character acting as a pseudo femme fatale, and the film taking on a bleak, endless tapestry. The performances are decent, though not particularly captivating. The entire film feels like a sexy, dizzying rollercoaster ride – you probably won’t know what hit you, but at least you will find yourself having a good time. I hope.