Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Danny Boyle's 'Trance' is what is known as a 'Mind Bending Thriller'.  When these types of movies work… man… they tend to be amongst the best that cinema has to offer.  But there is so much involved in making them work, and because this particular genre is usually built on a flimsy house of plot hole-ridden cards to begin with, these types of movies usually have to blow past these plot holes with break neck speed, or cover them up in glossy sheen, or maybe even find a way to not have them in the first place.  'Trance', I think, aims to cover up its foibles with glossy style.  It was a good effort.  And while 'Trance' was enjoyable enough, I wouldn't call it amongst the best of the genre.

James McAvoy narrates, at least for a couple of minutes, as the character of Simon the art auctioneer.  He's going on about art and art heists and whatnot, but it doesn't really matter because Vincent Cassel shows up in a minute as the character of Franck and if Vincent Cassel shows up in your movie, then there's a 95.8% chance that he's up to no good.

Guess what?  Franck is up to no good.  The heist is on, and it goes off without a hitch.  Except for the little incident where Simon tazes Franck for some reason causing Franck to crush Simon's skull with the butt of his rifle, but otherwise, it went well.  This tazing was a little peculiar since Simon was in on the heist and all, but there it is.

Now the problem is that when Vincent and his crew get back to the hideout, they find this painting is missing from its frame.  Clearly Simon, who is recovering from that nasty bump, has taken the painting, but where did he put it.  Simon has no clue where he put it, despite the forced removal of his fingernails, this sudden amnesia no doubt caused by getting his skull crushed by the butt of a rifle. 
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Now what?  Word is that hypnosis works and completely at random Simon picks a local hypnotist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to help jog his memory.  I'm thinking if I just stole something I wouldn't go to some random hypnotherapist to tell me where I placed this fifty million dollar thing I just stole, and they did try to explain this off to us, but I found the rationale unsatisfactory.  Now this is the point in the movie where things get a little squapity as Elizabeth digs into Simon's brain to unlock the secrets of his mind. As well as Franck's mind and the mind of his thug sidekicks.  It's Elizabeth's mind that we probably should be worried about.  And to say anything more would spoil the fun which should be experienced, of course, organically.

If nothing else, 'Trance' is a supreme exercise in style and the visual craft of filmmaking.  I mean this is film that looks good, sounds good, feels good, and it's one of those movies that, while you're watching it, makes you feel three levels cooler just sitting in front of it.  If I were throwing a dinner party, I'd put 'Trance' on in the background as Anthony Dod Mantle's cinematography, James McAvoy's accent, Vincent Cassel's existence and Rosario Dawson's lips would give me an artificial level of class that would be impossible to reproduce on my own.  But as to the content that is encased within this glossy style?  Well….

As the film plays on, it doesn't take long for the audience to realize that our minds are being tampered with by the filmmakers, which kinds of gives a slight pass on a lot of the implausibility that we are seeing, but as pointed to earlier, everything feels so right in this movie, it's still quite enjoyable.  Then we enter a phase where have to start questioning what is real and what isn't real, and then characters start doing things, particularly the character of Elizabeth which don't seem to make much sense, even when we get to our big reveal.  In fact it makes negative sense.  The whole crux of what we are experiencing in this movie pretty much hinges on the character of Elizabeth and she's about as ill-defined a main character in a movie that we have seen in some time.  The problem with this is that we are left to guess as to a lot of what her motivation is.  At least that which she doesn't explicitly explain to us.

This brings to my main issue with this film, the end.  Not so much how it ended, but how it was delivered.  There was that word 'organically' I used earlier, and the best of these kinds of movies allow the twists and turns to be delivered and experienced by the audience in just that way.  What we had here was a variation of the talking killer.  That characters that explains everything before the end of the movie, instead of just putting a bullet in the head of our hero.  So while everything that was going was being laid out for us in excruciating detail, I just imagine how much better it would've been if the audience could've experienced this awesome twistiness that has been setup for the last 100 or so minutes via the actual narrative, instead of having somebody just run it down for us like they were reading a grocery list.  I know that's hard to pull off, but this is what makes these kinds of movies great. 

Again, I enjoyed 'Trance' well enough, a stylish exercise executed by a master story teller, oh… but I'm thinking there was an opportunity here for something really special.
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