TRANCE Review

Trance is one of those films you want to watch again as soon as it ends. There are so many twists, so many perspectives, and betrayals that when the credits begin to roll you are immediately trying to recount the events of what happened to fact check and make sure it all makes sense. In the case of director Danny Boyle's latest this may prove to be somewhat of an improbability. Even as I walked out of the theater I couldn't exactly put together the motivations for what caused every event throughout the course of the film to occur. I couldn't exactly put my finger on who were the bad guy and guys in the film and I certainly am still attempting to process what all of what I saw actually happened and what was part of some grand illusion that was executed in order to fulfill certain characters wants. Despite this overwhelming sense of confusion that comes along with this viewing experience I still found the movie to be something of an exhilarating and fun, if not pointless time at the movies. Some of that may be due to the fact that this is indeed a Danny Boyle film. The man who's made such cult hits as Trainspotting and 28 Days Later as well as Academy darlings like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours returns from his gig as the London Olympics opening ceremony director with that same sense of style and flash he's always carried into this frenetic piece of mind warping. Written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge who also penned The Beach and Trainspotting for Boyle the film is tightly scripted and quickly paced as it flies by at a breakneck speed so that we are never bored and never given the time to question what might lead to plot holes with repeat viewings. I hope not, I hope the opposite proves true and I am able to pick up on all the clues along the way with a second viewing, but based purely on a first impression this is less than I expected from such a filmmaker while completely succeeding in being thoroughly entertaining.

Things don't go as planned for Vincent Cassel's Franck. 
While it's somewhat difficult to summarize the story taking place here without giving too much away, though my region was one of the last to receive this film and therefore it's likely those who have any interest in seeing this already have, but regardless it is safe to say I'm not spoiling anything when I say that James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class, Wanted) plays Simon, a young art auctioneer who becomes mixed up with a group of criminals led by Vincent Cassel's (doing his best kind of bad guy) Franck and a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson, who has the perfect voice for this role) who seems to have a certain interest in not only Simon, but the piece of art Cassel and his crew intended to steal but had their plan thwarted by an over anxious Simon who doesn't seem sure what side of the line he falls on. Given that you've likely seen a trailer before going into this I'd say it is safe to say that you realize where exactly Simon might fall in that he was in on the heist of the painting. Where things get confusing are when Dawson's Elizabeth is introduced into the mix. This is where it goes from being a straight up caper flick to something of a psychological mind game as the technique of hypnotherapy may be defined as the use of hypnosis as a therapeutic technique, this film tends to be anything but therapeutic. As Simon has removed the original painting from the frame, but can't seem to remember where he placed in Cassel's slick baddie forces him into Elizabeth's office so that she may conjure up the memory of where the stolen painting now sits. It seems a bit of a hassle, right? The good news is that it doesn't feel that way when you're watching the film because in typical Boyle fashion we receive a voice over that give insight into the images we are seeing onscreen and highly stylized images at that. This allows the many ins and outs of the convoluted plot to be delivered with a kind of ease that in the hands of a lesser filmmaker might have simply become a mess of characters and nonsense.

Usually in my reviews I reserve this paragraph for a time to reflect on the themes of the film or what it might have been trying to say beyond the simple task of entertaining its audience with a good story. While there are certainly a few questions that came to mind as I watched Trance, especially those of how much the film was trying to say something about upending the system or no matter how far we come in terms of technological advancements it is still the basic instincts of man that will lead it to continue to survive, but beyond that I still have more questions that anything else. Again, it would be difficult to discuss all of these without giving everything away so we will stay as broad as possible. First and foremost is the fact that the movie messes with its main character as much as it does with its audience. The film has you believe we get to know Simon and that he is the central figure that the entire story the movie is telling will revolve around, but even that fails to be true in the end. The questions I continued to ask myself after leaving my screening were ones of what role did Cassel's character really play in the grand scheme of things, was he simply interested in stealing the piece of art so that he might sell it and make a nice profit or was there something more to it? The final shot may suggest that there was. Why did McAvoy's Simon even bother to keep the painting for himself in the first place, really? If he was as involved as is later implied it is assumed he would have went along with the plan, but it is only because he doesn't that certain things happen, things necessary to the overall story that allow for every twist to make sense and be consistent with everything that unfolds as the movie plays out. Maybe there is complete justification for each of these and numerous other questions I have and I hate to feel like I'm suggesting talking points rather than conducting a full conversation about the film, but that is the type of effect Trance seems to have, one where the answer to one question only spawns ten more.

James McAvoy becomes entangled in a web of lies in Danny Boyle's latest, Trance.
In that line of thought dissecting this film would be like trying to have a solid conversation about time travel without falling into trap upon trap of interpretation and opinions mistaken for fact. When, in reality, this film isn't really intended to be that much of a thought-provoking experience, but rather a little piece of brisk, but trippy entertainment that keeps its audience hooked and amused for 90-minutes and then lets us go to try and see how we might connect the dots and comment on the inventive imagery Boyle was again able to bring to the screen. All of this leads to the main question though of if it is even worth seeing? Was it enjoyable? Was it fun? Was it a movie that should be seen in theaters or one that could just pass a night in quite nicely? This is certainly not the high-caliber Academy work that we may have come to expect after Boyle's last two features, but it is a wild ride that looks great and is worth seeking out if you enjoy a good mind game. The problem being that the initial viewing likely doesn't do the film justice and will only lead to a frustrating drive home where you wish you could rewind the film and hopefully get the answers to every question that pops up along the way. There are certain plot points that made sense in the moment, but now don't necessarily connect as to why they were vital to the overall importance of the story being told. And sometimes it felt like their were twists (especially in the last twenty minutes or so) that existed simply because they wanted to keep flipping the script on us and it almost became too much for me, but even if the film wouldn't hold up under high scrutiny and an intense breakdown of every plot strand and character analysis I would be lying if I said I didn't have a good time at this movie. It was fun, it was entertaining, and it did deliver the standard, cheap thrills it was likely intended to. Still, there is something eerily frustrating about the movie as if even though we supposedly know the truth of everything that happened, that there is still something more, something better being held back from us.