Monday, May 27, 2013


Trance (2013) - dir. Danny Boyle

The mind has become hot property in cinema these days. Following the smash success of Inception and it's dream within a dreams shtick, movies have been foraying deeper into the mind with hopes to: A) challenge audiences with the complexity of its unconventional narrative and structure; and B) Take your money. With Trance, Danny Boyle has opted to fail at both of these, and thrown in a sub par heist movie to boot. However as with any film that seeks to whack you smack in the head, at least there is a some enjoyment to be found once the initial headache has passed.

The film begins with a recognizably Boyle-esque opening, heavily laden exposition presented with style and flair. Fine art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy, in a manner reminiscent of Trainspotting, introduces us to his life and work at an auction house. Almost immediately this introduction is interrupted by a group of art thieves led by Franck (Vincent Cassel) intent to steal a priceless artwork, and after a series of dizzying cross cuts, swooping camera transitions and thumping soundtrack, Simon winds up with a serious blow to the head and the painting in question gone. For Franck and the thieves it is clear Simon knows where the painting is, but due to the head trauma he sustained (whose smart idea was this anyway?) he cannot remember. This is where the heist film ends, and the mind melting Inception plot begins. But pray what does Trance do different? Instead of dreams within dreams, we have hypnosis, as the team "randomly" selects professional hypnotist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to dig out the whereabouts of the painting from poor Simon's subconscious.

Unfortunately this is where the film lost me, as Danny Boyle just abuses the limit that the audience can suspend its belief whilst leaving plot holes the size of houses and a litany of unanswered questions that left me frustrated. Trance invariably suffers from the current trend of directors in this post-Christopher Nolan/Inception/The Dark Knight-world, in which films emphasize flair and style in order to give the appearance of depth and complexity. Nonetheless this still belies a clear lack of substance to back up the flair. The key twists you can guess from miles away. This includes the key background behind *SPOILERS* Simon and Elizabeth's prior relationship, I mean the films initially presents Elizabeth as an out of the blue side character, yet from the very first interaction she has with Simon (and her emotional breakdown after this meeting) it is clear there was something bigger and darker there. The rest of the movie's twists and turns just fall together like missmatching puzzle pieces. I could not help but think that facts were deliberately withheld from the audience (which for this sub-genre is self-defeating and is my biggest pet peeve), but this conflicts with lazily letting other twists be left out in the open to be easily deciphered.

The many issues I took with the plot just made me recall Star Wards for some reason. My anger, led to hate, hate led to suffering, which is a slippery slope to the dark side of film reviewing. However if you put the aggravating plot aside, lock it in a box and throw it into a river if you will, there are many things that I highly enjoyed!

First, as with any film from Danny Boyle, this film looks beautiful. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle really deserves plaudits for his work, as does much of the production side of Trance. The editing, though dizzy, is perfect for a head trip. The sets are as ersatz as the funhouse from The Man with the Golden Gun meets Tron: Legacy (a stretch I know but bear with me!). And the colors, OH THE COLORS! I love any film which so liberally splashes primary colors such as red and blue about, though my head was reeling my eyes were certainly entranced! Furthermore I cannot in good conscious neglect to mention Rosario Dawson's performance. She is a presence to be reckoned with in this film! Every scene I was just drawn to her, both for subtle power she brought to her character (the most interesting) and her simply stunning beauty. A key scene sees her appear in full front nudity, but rather than vulgarity as per ever nude scenes in film, here she glows like picturesque beauty from the paintings to which this film revolves around. Simply beautiful. To top off the fantastic production, Boyle has brought in Rick Smith (from Underworld fame) to give us a pulsating, lively and table-smacking awesome soundtrack! As Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers and Chromatics have shown, films should continue utilizing electronic artists for their soundtracks.

It's clear I have quite a bit of bile to vent about this film, and I just know that you will walk out of this film either wowed as you were with Inception (oh lord) or just plain frustrated. That being said, there were some things to be enjoyed in this migraine of a film, though you won't see me coming back to this anytime soon. Oh Danny Boyle, you've done so much better. 5/10


Post a Comment