Derek Winnert


This article was written on 06 Apr 2013, and is filled under Reviews.

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Trance – Film Review


After his triumph with the Olympics opening ceremony, the pressure is on Danny Boyle to come up with a film of genius. And here it kind of is.

Boyle must have been the smartest kid in his class at school, but Trance is so clever it disappears up its own ambition and imagination. The film company asks us not to reveal key plot twists. I couldn’t if I wanted to. I’ve no idea about what’s going on from start to finish, though, to be fair, it gets more and more obscure (and increasingly confusing) as it goes along. This movie certainly put me in a trance.

All I know is it involves mainly James McAvoy, a gambling addicted art auctioneer who may or may not (probably not) have stolen a masterpiece painting, Vincent Cassel, a nasty criminal gang boss who may or may not (probably not) have tried to steal the painting, and Rosario Dawson as a hypnotherapist who may or may not be helping McAvoy find where he’s stashed the painting or just his car keys. Or is she helping him over his gambling addiction, or have they had an abusive relationship, or is she a criminal mastermind? Maybe she organised the Olympic Games. I don’t know and I don’t really care.

Boyle’s eye-achingly flashy style is everything, and he underlines and overscores his outrageous images with the noisiest, most annoyingly insistent soundtrack he can lay his hands on. Sound and vision, subtle, it’s not. What’s the matter, why don’t they trust the images they’ve taken so much trouble over? Why can’t any shot just be plain, serviceable and usefully doing the job? Does every image have to look as though it comes out of an arty photography catalogue? Yes it does.

Boyle’s visuals are utterly brilliant and awesome, of course, but the movie’s just plain headache inducing. The three distinguished star actors don’t really get any chances to act, but they go to everything Boyle throws at them to do with an iron will and a good grace. Concentrating big time on huge facial close-ups and odd body shots, Boyle seems to use his cast solely as images not for their abilities to create characters. McAvoy, Cassel and Dawson seem relaxed and confident enough with this, apart from the slight hiccup of Cassel’s trouble with some English words and the music of English sentences, slightly undermining his menacing authority.

Mind-bending, mind-boggling, mind-blowing, and just plain baffling, Trance is a dazzling showoff masterpiece of style over substance that’s going to be talked about for a long time. It may not be Boyle’s best film but, in a world where everything’s a sequel, remake or rehash, it carves out its space as a unique experience. The only films it even slightly recalls are Vanilla Sky, Memento, Inception and Source Code. Happily, for the makers and film company, second and third viewings are essential for full understanding and enjoyment. And it needs to be seen on the big screen.

John Hodge and Joe Ahearne are the writers, Rick Smith’s the composer, Anthony Dod Mantle the cinematographer, Danny Boyle’s the main culprit.

(C) Derek Winnert 2013

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