I’m always intrigued when the latest Danny Boyle movie comes out. He’s such a unique and diverse director. Boyle has covered many different genres, from sci-fi, zombie movies, biography’s, to action thrillers. You name a genre, he’s tackled it before, even if it’s elements of it in a different kind of movie altogether. All of his movies, however, are connected by their stylist qualities and similar themes. Trance has a lot in conman with what Nolan did in Inception and Memento. Reality vs hypnosis isn’t as elaborate, but plays with the same idea how the human mind can be tricked (certainly won’t be the final movie to do this). You never know what’s real, what’s a dream, or imagination. We are left in the dark for most of it wondering and contemplating. Boyle crafts the story well so not to lose the audience, throws clues throughout. The rug is constantly pulled out from under you still. Boyle does toy with things too much, and it can get in the way of other aspects. He keeps things together while pulling them apart.
Simon (James McAvoy) is the second in charge at a posh action in London that’s selling Goya’s “Witches in the Air.” The painting is worth twenty-five million pounds. He collaborates up with a criminal gang led by a French Gangster, Frank (Vincent Cassel), to steal the painting. Things are going okay until Simon suffers a blow to the head during the heist. When he awakes Frank is desperate to find out where Simon stashed the painting – they only have the frame. Questioning and torture can’t bring back the memory, so Frank forces Simon to see a hypnotherapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson). She is tasked with delving into the darkest depths of Simon’s mind. While Elizabeth starts the process, the line between reality and trance, is heavily blurred.
Trance has an excellent look and feel to it. Not a single person can argue against the fact that Danny Boyle knows how to shoot a film. It’s present in everything he’s done, just look at his previous project, 127 Hours – masterfully done. Boyle’s ability to tell a story in an engrossing stylized manner sets him apart from other directors. He uses reflections and psychedelic images with ease. John Harris does a superb job on the editing. The color palette chosen is a mix of saturated colors, muted tones, and dark shadows. Every frame is stunning. There are some especially amazing sequences. A soundtrack can’t fully break or make a movie, but it plays an important part. Music selection and placement was fantastic. Always adds something to the scene, suspense being one of them.
Essentially, acting wise, this is a three man show. The performances were needed to carry some of the load. No weak link amongst them; they all were up to the task. It seems every time I see James McAvoy in anything, he’s always at the very minimum good – most of the time he is great. That streak remains intact. McAvoy plays with the different sides of his character extremely convincingly – never know what to expect. Really does a splendid job, steals countless scenes. The other roles were difficult to pull off, but Rosario Dawson had the hardest character to convey. She uses her voice to great effect, and balances being reserved while adding other elements when needed.
Vincent Cassel always seems to play a true bad guy in everything he’s in. I’ve accepted him doing those roles, he does a fine job. Cassel was on his way for yet another. However, there’s much more to his villain in this case, and Cassel runs with it. He strangely commands a presence where you are drawn to his character. One of his better performances; should be much more known than he is. None of the other cast members are caught slacking off. Matt Cross, Wahab Sheikh, and Danny Sapani fill in their roles nicely.
The screenplay was written by Joe Ahearne and long time Boyle collaborate John Hodge; always excited when the two of them get together. I loved the setup. The story unfolds well and the little twists worked while keeping a good pace. It had me very engaged. The third act is when Trance takes a step back. It’s basically a series of reveals. It all felt rushed and a bit convoluted. Almost like they were running out of time and had to fill in the blanks rather quickly. Wasn’t as clever as the other acts, and you can question if enough was presented throughout the movie so you can buy what happens. Might take a second viewing to realize that, though.
I liked the way the characters were handled. The three leads seem simple enough to start out, but that does not remain the case. Trance doesn’t make it easy for you to distinguish what these people are about. No one is a saint or a pure villain from the beginning. You are taken on a journey by discovering new things about each person and deciding how you fell as it goes along. Simon, Elizabeth, and Frank all have flaws. None are one-dimensional. A lot of information is given – some neatly done with the hypnotherapy scenes. I thought this was a nice entertaining twisty thriller that misses greatness. Still, keeps you guessing until the end, that is always a plus.