Trance Blu-ray Review
Hollywood director Danny Boyle is an enigma. He has made some of the great films of the last decade, like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008), 28 DAYS LATER (2002) or even the underrated SUNSHINE (2007). But he’s also put together some real losers, i.e. Leonardo DiCaprio’s terrible supposed-breakout feature THE BEACH (2000) and his most recent TRANCE. Yet in each movie Boyle makes bold choices and sticks to them 100%, for right or wrong. There is something admirable about that, even in his lesser films. So watching the newly arrived to Blu-ray TRANCE (2013) is a real mixed bag.
The opening of TRANCE is phenomenal. James McAvoy’s art auctioneer Simon explains in voiceover what should be done and how if there is an attempted theft during an auction. This accompanies a great montage showing the steps, which are then played out as a heist is actually attempted. At the center of the heist is Francesco de Goya’s timeless “Witches in the Air”, a beautiful work worth many millions of dollars. As Simon is removing the art from the situation to put it into a time-secure vault he runs into one of the thieves, a man named Franck (Vincent Cassel). Simon is hit on the head and because of the severity of the trauma he loses all memory. When he wakes up the painting is gone and he has no memory of where it could be.
This is where TRANCE takes a bit of a weird turn. In an effort to recall the location of the missing painting, the thieves torture Simon, and when that doesn’t work they look into hypnotherapy. Enter Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), who quickly becomes intertwined in this story of deceit and intrigue. Dawson gives a genuine performance, exuding more than her share of sensuality and really hypercharging the film and the crew as both Simon and Franck fall under her spell.
TRANCE is a very interesting film and, on a surface level, goes into some uncharted territory in Hollywood. But, like so many films, TRANCE gets caught up in its own seriousness and hype and starts to become more an homage to film noir than an actual modern noir piece. Part of that is because of Boyle’s direction, like in THE BEACH, where he takes some interesting left turns when most films travel a more traditional line. While this certainly adds some beauty to the film and some quiet moments where Hollywood would traditionally add special effects.
Boyle doesn’t need to rely on special effects though. If he’s shown us anything throughout his Hollywood career, Boyle knows how to work with actors. McAvoy, Cassel, and Dawson have all given good turns in the past, but Boyle helps them take their abilities to the next level. In fact, even the bit players are strong in their roles. Sadly, none of this fixes the issues with the script and the resulting poor editing; both of which telegraph a number of TRANCE’s twists way too early. In fact, in some scenes it almost feels like they WANT us to know what’s coming up, the actors almost winking at us through their character masks.
In the end TRANCE comes away feeling like a shadow of an early M. Night Shyamalan flick, or even a more lucid take on any one of David Lynch’s so-called ‘masterpieces’. You’d never expect it after the first 30 minutes, which are some of Boyle’s finest moments since SUNSHINE. But instead of delivering on the promises made during that intense first act, the second and third fall to the wayside as though cobbled together from scrap. Big fans of Dawson, McAvoy and Boyle will find plenty to like here but TRANCE isn’t going to bring over the rest of the world. I recommend the concept but cannot in good conscience recommend the Blu-ray.
TRANCE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) Danny Boyle is nothing if not an incredibly talented director and the way he puts together images is incredible. The transfer is flawless and you’ll see both bright and vibrant colors as well as deep shadows. TRANCE is a poster-child for amazing presentation.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) The audio for TRANCE is mixed beautifully and presented in glorious 7.1 DTS-HD. If you don’t have surround you might find yourself constantly turning the sound up and down, though, because the dialogue can be very quiet at times, specifically with McAvoy’s accent.
Deleted Scenes (16:33) Seven scenes are presented with the ability to watch a la carte or to just play them all at once. Nothing great here, sadly nothing that could have saved TRANCE, but some interesting details are revealed in some of the deleted moments. Included are Stolen Paintings (an enhanced opening scene that would have really dragged down the opening moments of TRANCE, which are some of the best), Chip Shop, Boy in a Red Vest, I Still Have It, It Wasn’t a Dream, I’m Bad You Know, and Tell Me Now.
The Power of Suggestion – Making TRANCE (33:59) This extensive feature looks at TRANCE from several different angles and is quite enjoyable though the movie still doesn’t rise up out of mediocrity. The ideas, the stuff that lies under the top level of TRANCE, are incredibly interesting, making the end result all that much more disappointing. This is presented in four parts: Danny’s Film Noir, Hypnotherapy, The Look, and The Final Rewrite.
Danny Boyle Retrospective (14:56) An interview with Boyle where he talks about the underlying meaning of his previous works. This is a welcome feature, the kind that enhances TRANCE as a package. This is the kind of feature you always hope to see on any and every Blu-ray.
Short Film: EUGENE by Spencer Susser (13:07) The director of HESHER (with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Natalie Portman) made this independent film through a project with Intel and W Hotels. I have absolutely zero idea why this was included on the TRANCE Blu-ray, but it’s actually a better film. EUGENE is a lonely man who receives an unusual gift, an Ultrabook that grants wishes.
The TRANCE Blu-ray also includes the Theatrical Trailer (01:22) for TRANCE, some Sneak Peeks of other Fox Searchlight releases, and a digital HD UltraViolet copy of TRANCE.