Trance: Film Review


Seldom is a director so talented a stylist that he can practically carry a movie all by himself. Danny Boyle does this magnificently in his visually stunning, mind bending, neo-noir film, “Trance”.

Simon (James McAvoy) , a fine arts auctioneer, participates in the heist of Goya classic painting valued at over 40 million dollars. In trying to double cross his partners, he receives a smash in the head from gang leader Frank (a fine Vincent Cassel) When Simon awakens, he can’t seem to remember where he put that darned painting. Frank and company have no problem helping him remember by pulling out his fingernails. When that won’t work , they enlist the help of hypnotherapist, Elizabeth Lamb ( Rosario Dawson) to get our boy to recall what happened.

What follows is a twist-a-minute story that Boyle keeps moving at a brisk and entertaining pace. Elizabeth (Dawson, who has never been better), uses her skills to slowly coax more and more information from Simon, though when she finds out what they are really after, has no problem cutting herself into the deal in exchange for her services. Her hypnotic ways go way beyond therapy as she manages to seduce Frank and begins to play him against Simon.

Boyle is the rare director who is able to move between genres with seeming ease, and does an excellent job with each. Whether it be sci-fi as in “Sunshine”, third world melodrama “Slumdog Millionaire”, or drug drama as in “Trainspotting”, he is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Here he moves back and forth seamlessly from reality to very imaginatively depicted hypnotic suggestions. The hypnotic sequences are extremely creative and entertainingly done. At one point, Simon seems to drift through a sea of Van Gogh sunflowers, at another, a seemingly dead character talks with half a head.One might get lost and confused with all the switching from fantasy to reality; this can be a positive or a negative depending on the viewer. At first I was miffed at the disorientation I felt about what was really happening, but then I appreciated having the same feeling of the lead character, whose disorientation and confusion is so well handled by McAvoy.

The script was adapted by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge, based on Ahearne’s 2001 made for TV movie by the same name. They handle the Noir genre well with a solid grip on all the conventions, but also with a real freshness. Suffice to say, this is a real “R” movie; there are some gory moments indeed.

A well publicized glimpse of Dawson’s nether regions unfortunately pulled me out of the story for a couple of minutes, as I imagined Boyle in a trailer, convincing Dawson of the need for her to go “full frontal” for the sake of the story. I laughed, thinking what else could he convince her of? Then I learned that Boyle and Dawson were indeed an item for a while after shooting. Live and let live–no matter, for Boyle doesn’t slow things down enough for you to get too distracted, as his editing style is delightfully brisk.

The throbbing soundtrack by Rick Smith also lends itself well to the proceedings. The final conclusion is a bit disappointing and a bit derivative of other “dream” films like Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”, but overall this is not an epic, but sheer entertainment, and mesmerizingly done at that. /p>

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