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Movie Review: Trance

April 12, 2013
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With Trance, Danny Boyle brings the audience a dark and brooding psychological thriller in which nobody and nothing is as it seems. The less said about the intricate plot, the better. A few indulgent words can easily topple the fragile house of cards that serves as plot in the movie.

Simon (James McAvoy) works for an art auction house. After accruing some massive gambling debts, he agrees to participate in a painting heist to wipe his slate clean. Things appear to go according to plan but a nasty blow to the head renders Simon unable to recall where he put the painting in the midst of all the chaos. Ringleader Franck (Vincent Cassel) is none too pleased with Simon’s inconvenient bout of amnesia. At first he thinks Simon is faking his ailment, but after a few rounds of torture he reluctantly comes to the conclusion that Simon is telling the truth.

Simon agrees to see a hypnotherapist in the hopes of remembering where he put the painting.  His therapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) is properly buttoned down, but underneath the professional attire and pulled back coif Elizabeth simmers with sensuality. There’s definitely more to her than meets the eye, and it quickly becomes apparent that Elizabeth has an ulterior motive to treating Simon. After Simon undergoes his first few sessions with Elizabeth he starts questioning every aspect of his life as it becomes impossible to differentiate between reality and fantasy. Consequently, Simon becomes paranoid and dangerous.

Trance aspires to be a mind bender, and in some ways it succeeds. However when all the cards are laid on the table it’s hard not to feel manipulated. The execution of the story is a bit forced, as if Boyle and co-scribes John Hodge (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting) and Joe Ahearne were just hell bent on producing a movie mind screw of a movie. The end result feels like they cheated a bit.

Trance benefits from solid performances from Cassel and McAvoy. As for Dawson, she lets it all hang out, so to speak, and unabashedly embraces an uncomfortable full frontal scene.  Cassel is slick and slimy and McAvoy’s boyish charm lends itself well to his character’s initial naivety.

Though Boyle has mellowed a bit over the course of his career, Trance is a throwback to his earlier works. A frenetic pace and a thumping electronic soundtrack are reminiscent of Trainspotting, and scenes bathed in red and blue hues add to the overall style of the film. The twists and turns are fast and furious, and it’s fun to watch the story unfold. I just wished when it was all said and done that the film was as smart as it tried to be.

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