Trance Movie Review
When I finished watching TRANCE, I needed to sit and process it a bit. Not because it was overly complicated with several symbolic interpretations. No, quite the opposite. The story was so dumbed down and telegraphed, I thought surely there must be something I’m missing from this uniquely stylized thriller from Oscar winning director Danny Boyle.
TRANCE has a rock solid opening, ripe with potential. The always amazing James McAvoy is Simon, narrating the details about what actions he must take as an art auctioneer when they are being robbed. Stay calm and grab the most expensive piece of work. Wrap the painting in a protective casing and send it down a security vault much like sliding an envelope in a mailbox. Most importantly, don’t be a hero, a person’s life is far more valuable than any painting.
The stage is set efficiently and effectively due mostly to Danny Boyle’s top notch directing. After a thrilling opening heist, which finds Francisco Goya’s 1798 masterpiece “Witches in the Air” as the targeted painting, things are immediately revealed that not all is as it seems. Franck (Vincent Cassel) and his criminal gang pull off the robbery but not without giving Simon a blow to the head. But after unwrapping their stolen prize only find an empty frame, they realize Simon had his own plans to steal the painting. Unfortunately, the blow to Simon’s head has jostled his memory and he can’t recall what he did with it. After some failed tortured attempts, Franck decides to take Simon to a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson). From here, the story takes a surreal turn as it mixes reality with the subconscious. Dawson’s Elizabeth is onto things extremely quickly, trying a variety of tactics to unlock Simon’s memory.
TRANCE moves at a rapid pace and is energized with stylized directions and pulpy bright colors. The visuals dazzle and confuse emitting the appropriate ambiance for a hypnotic subject. James McAvoy is once again brilliant as a jittery nervous wreck, trying to find his memory. He brings life and humor to a picture that is rather dry with personality. Here is one of the many problems with the script from Joe Ahearne and John Hodge. With every minute that passes by, TRANCE loses credibility. Jumping between Simon, Franck and Elizabeth as our lead characters doesn’t work at all when the audience only cares about Simon. But even that fades away as the ending becomes a convoluted mess. Boyle’s style now just becomes gimmicky as the story telling falls completely apart. There are so many plot holes, questionable character decisions and obvious twists, that TRANCE quickly loses any of the fun that it had achieved at the beginning.
TRANCE is terribly frustrating with all the makings of a dynamic modern thriller but none of the follow through. The twists are telegraphed a mile away making the intrigue completely void as the end result is a predictable bore. In fact, the most surprising thing is how committed the film is to its bad choices. The conventional ending with car wrecks and explosions combined with the numerous plot points that don’t make a lick of sense are enough to drive one mad.
I really wanted to like this film as Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE are among some of my favorites. One might be fooled, or hypnotized if you will, into thinking they are seeing something better than it really is. Without some interesting direction choices and a stellar performance by McAvoy, TRANCE has no redeeming quality. Sadly, even these two highlights aren’t enough positives to surpass such a massive negative when it comes to the sloppy script.