Wednesday, September 18, 2013

REVIEW: Trance

Director: Danny Boyle
Year 2013

Trance is a sick, sexy and sleek psychological thriller which twists and turns its narrative so often that you'll feel you're lost in a beautifully crafted, yet extremely viscous dream. Directed by the versatile Danny Boyle and performed by a stellar cast, this underrated gem features an abundance of trippy visuals and astoundingly shocking moments, which combine for a wild cinematic experience that you'll find hard to shake. With its wild dream logic and saturated colors, Trance is a film which pulls out all the stops in the name of entertainment, doing so in the most violent and cerebral of ways.

The film follows an art auctioneer named Simon, who uncharacteristically decides to steal a painting from his auction house with the help of a group of thieves led by a man named Franck. In mid heist, a series of unfortunate events causes Simon to lose portions of his memory and he wakes in the hospital with no recollection of the heist or where the painting is. Pressured by his peers and threatened with his life, Simon enlists the aid of a beautiful hypnotherapist named Elizabeth to help him track down the missing painting and to possibly assist in regaining his lost past. Confused and distraught, Simon becomes increasingly paranoid as his mind begins playing tricks on him, confusing friends with foes, until he can no longer distinguish the difference between reality and fantasy. Lost in his faded memories and trapped in his desires, Simon will come to the startling and shocking truth... but will he be able to survive it?

James McAvoy takes on the demanding role of Simon the art auctioneer. Within the run time of the film, he portrays every element of the acting spectrum, going from mild mannered to complete psycho, and everything in between. It's impressive the amount of depth McAvoy covers within the movie's tight frame, but he puts all of himself into the role and that tremendous effort pays off in full. It is so strange to have such sympathy for a character only to be blown away by how vile, corrupt, and downright nasty they turn out to be by the film's end, but McAvoy pulls it off and with frightening results. In essence, the movie basically hinges on his performance, seeing that he is the driving force behind the narrative, and McAvoy carries the picture with intense flair and intimidating gusto.

The supporting cast is also great in their respective roles, with Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson doing some extremely enjoyable turns as Franck the art thief and Elizabeth the hypnotherapist. Cassel has always been great, whether he's playing the charismatic anti-hero Dobermann or portraying the vile Jean-Francois in Brotherhood of the Wolf, the man is always in top form. With Trance, he plays a more low-key character, but is still able to maintain that same charisma and pull. Dawson is equally compelling in the illusive role of hypnotist Elizabeth, and her ambiguous performance is as delicious and sexy as they come. There is definitely no wanting in the performances of Trance, and the actors all do a fantastic job in maintaining a grounded sense amongst such a twisted and mind-bending narrative.

On the visual side of things, the film is a kaleidoscope of colorful moments and optically pleasing compositions that often reflect the scattered and fragmented experiences that the main character Simon is going through. Landscapes taken straight out of dreams and lucid nightmares springing straight to life are the main courses in this production, and director Danny Boyle gives the proceedings enough panache and fortitude to successfully pull it off. There's a sharp viciousness to this film that you don't often see in cerebral thrillers, and I appreciated the gritty nature that Boyle was able to put together within this cinematic world. It's cold, confusing and often revolting, and I believe that is one of the film's most endearing qualities.

It is indeed a roller coaster of a ride as it starts out innocently enough with a stylistically presented heist, but then it quickly turns down a dark and disturbing path filled with sex, violence and plenty of death. I appreciated the twists and turns that the narrative threw at me, and the fact that it was willing to delve into some taboo subject matter makes it even the more daring. It's disturbing how dark the material gets, and I applaud Boyle's boldness in not shying away from certain scenarios, instead opting to dive right in and relish in the offensive. This is probably one of the most beautifully rendered exploitation films to ever grace the screen, providing enough obscene imagery and shocking moments to make any genre fan happy, yet still traversing that solid thriller road, albeit a demented one. Trance is without a doubt a visceral production which wears its naughty heart on its sleeve.

Trance is Danny Boyle's most daring film to date, as it shares the same energy as his classic film Trainspotting, or more so the scatter-brained psychedelic and schizophrenic version of that film. It's often lost in a dream like state, jumping from one out of this world scenario to the next, until you aren't quite sure if you're in the real world or not anymore. This confusing atmosphere that it is able to muster is a potent one, yet the actors' combined performances are able to ground us somewhat in this dream-like world, forcing us to push forward and solve the convoluted mystery, even to the bitter end.

James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, and Rosario Dawson are amazing in their respective roles, with McAvoy taking on most of the heavy lifting. His transformation and back and forth personalities are expertly portrayed and you have to hand it to him on being an overwhelming presence in the film. He brings a great deal of the raw nature that the movie encompasses and I think that his performance and the expert hand of Danny Boyle are what make this film so genuinely exciting and so damn vivid. If you are desperately searching for a cerebral thriller with a mean streak, and one that doesn't shy away from the nastier things in life, then give this one a go. It is a demanding film, but the rewards are so worth it. Trance is.....

Well aren't you pretty as a picture.

Not looking so good James.

Oh calm down you big baby. It's just a splinter.

How dare you fart before me!

Now you just sit in the naughty chair and think about what you did McAvoy.

Passing gas is a big no no McAvoy!

Are you talking to me?

The Unusual Suspects.

What superhero are you? Bucket-headman?

Simply lovely!

Let's just take a little off the top... SHIT!

Stop or my McAvoy will shoot!

What? One Rosario Dawson not enough?!?! Have a bunch!!!

This is what happens when you text and jaywalk.


Psychotic Staring Contest..... GO!

Vincent... Did you just make a wee wee in the pool?


  1. Nice review Jay. Not Boyle’s best movie, but definitely the most fun he seems to have had with a movie in awhile. That’s definitely saying something, too.

  2. Yeah, he seems to be having a blast with how crazy he can get and how twisted he can make the plot. Like you said, not his best, but it's definitely up there for me. Hell I'm still a sucker for The Beach, though most people hated that one... Haha!