Dir: Danny Boyle, 2013
Simon is an art auctioneer who decides to execute an inside job theft of a renowned painting. When Simon stages a double-cross on his partner Franck, he receives a knock on the head which gives him amnesia and makes the painting’s whereabouts a mystery. Franck sends Simon to Elizabeth, a hypnotherapist, to try to unlock the painting’s location but Elizabeth has an objective of her own.
“Amnesia is bollocks”, bluntly states one of the brutes in Trance, Danny Boyle’s latest outing. After one of the most impressive openings in recent years, Boyle hurls us into a lurid, warped rollercoaster thriller that questions both memory and its correlation with motive. Inception, Christopher Nolan’s study of the subconscious, boasts that “the dream is real”; Danny Boyle’s less-than-swift riposte is an experimentation of sight and sound, arguing that the dream is surreal, in what could be called an homage to Hitchcock’s Spellbound. Trance employs reflective surfaces, lens flare, high contrasts, dizzying POVs and non-linear cutting to effectively evoke the inauthentic texture of the dreamscape, perplexing the viewer in regards to which scenes are not part of Boyle’s pseudo-reality. However Trance is confusion to the point of aggravation, and long before the third act you’ll find yourself wondering whether you’re meant to be with it or whether Boyle regular Alex Garland could have written it better. Odds are he could have.
James McAvoy reappears in the second of this year’s most visually stunning pictures (Welcome to the Punch being the first), coincidentally both regarding heists. McAvoy plays his usual shtick of the somewhat-disagreeable protagonist but is limited by the constant adherence to the progressively-tortuous plot. Even the talent of Vincent Cassel is wasted – an acting heavyweight whose haphazard addition to the cast after Michael Fassbender’s withdrawal is underutilised even in the role of a secondary lead. In fact, the only actor who brings game to Trance is Rosario Dawson, channelling a modern-day femme fatale while also loyally following Boyle’s leadership into an inexplicably extraneous nude scene. What’s even worse is that the actors don’t seem to be having nearly as much fun as Boyle is, masquerading his silliness in gorgeous set pieces and the pulsating score of Underworld’s Rick Smith.
“No piece of art is worth a human life” repeats James McAvoy on several occasions – words uttered with a pinch of salt as Danny Boyle illustrates another luscious display of his vast cinematic perspective. Trance’s subject matter may not be as enticing as the film itself but respect must be given toward the director. Boyle’s tenth feature showcases his tremendous ability to take a vacant story and transform it into a delicacy for the eyes and the ears, although not for the brain.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆