(15) Running time: 101 minutes
Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Cast: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, Wahab Sheikh
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Danny Boyle has called his new psychological heist thriller with a difference, Trance, the “dark, evil cousin” to his stunning Olympics Opening Ceremony 2012. While it is difficult to argue that statement, what is difficult to appreciate is that he was still working on Trance while creating one of the greatest Olympic Opening Ceremony’s ever. That in itself is a massive achievement, and testament to Boyle’s awesome dedication and skill. To pull off such a ceremony, AND create such a complex, inventive thriller, is truly mind-blowing, and Boyle would be easily forgiven if Trance wasn’t quite up to his usual standards given the amount of work he put in to the Olympics. Trance does not suffer under the pressures Boyle must have been facing, and once again one of the greatest directors in the world has taken a genre and made it his own, in blistering, energetic fashion.
Trance is like no other film you will see this year, and while you may come away from this scratching your head, or emotionally drained, there is no denying the fact that Trance is an awesome achievement both in terms of story, characters and an astonishing ‘dreamlike’ design. Boyle directs with his now trademark frantic and observant style, and thanks to a beltering soundtrack created and chosen by Underworld’s Rick Smith, Trance is unmistakably Boyle. Even if you did not know who directed this upon seeing it at the cinema, within seconds you will know it is a Boyle film, and that is a very good thing.
The plot centres around a multi million pound painting heist which goes horribly wrong, but believe me it is far more complex than just a simple heist thriller. James McAvoy plays Simon, an expensive art auctioneer who introduces himself, and his job during the film’s opening scene. In true Boyle form, Simon talks us through the ways of protecting “the most expensive painting in the room” should an auction be held up by criminals. Naturally, we know that everything Simon tells us is about to happen, and we suspect things will not go quite according to plan. In comes Vincent Cassel’s Franck, the leader of a gang of organised criminals who have studied the ways of the security at auctions, right down to the former military chaps waiting outside in a van. Franck wants the most expensive painting in the room, and his plan should see that he gets it. Things go wrong, ending with Simon being knocked unconscious, and the painting going missing. After waking from a coma, the only way Simon can remember where the painting is is through hypnosis. Enter Rosario Dawson’s seductive hypnotherapist Elizabeth.
So far, so straightforward, but once Simon goes under hypnosis, the film takes on a new, trippy and often hugely complicated direction. The build up to this point is cool heist thriller brilliance, with the robbery of the painting one of the most impressive heists you will have ever seen. Superb music is expertly used while the camera follows characters and cuts in and out of the scene in brilliant fashion. The film moves incredibly fast, and no sooner has Simon woke up in hospital, he is back home and then whisked away by Franck’s gang and is suddenly being tortured. We get to the hypnotherapy in no time, and the film continues to move at breakneck speed until your mind is very nearly ready to explode. Take my advice here: do not try to work everything out and ingest every little piece of information or plot twist that is thrown at you, you very well might collapse with exhaustion! Trance is frantic, and very fast paced, and often we jump in and out of “trance” without even realising it. The plot moves, thickens, twists and turns so fast that it does become very hard to keep up and, quite often, it does feel like Boyle got caught up in his own complex ideas and, dare I say it, it felt like the film ran away from his control.
Yes the film is meant to be layered and confusing, but at times I felt it was being confusing just for the sake of it. Around an hour in I really started to wonder just where the film was going, and if there really was a plan to round up all the plot devices. One minute you trust Simon, then you feel Elizabeth is up to something, then you question whether Franck is really all that bad, then you have the same thoughts all over again but differently for each character. Needless to say, you do get caught up in the complexity of it all, and some may find it a little too messy. However, the performances are so good from all the leads, it makes it very hard to dislike any of them, and so makes the film that much more tolerable. Also, personally, I find it very hard to dislike a Danny Boyle film anyway, and had this been in the hands of a lesser talented director, I may have given up hope. Since Boyle was in control, I knew, or should I say hoped, that it would all come together in the end.
Stunning music, some ultra cool cinematography and wonderfully crafted ‘dreamlike’ quality engulfs the film. Boyle has a gift of being incredibly cool without even trying, and that energy, genius and creativity that has been seen in pretty much everything he has done still shines here. For a director who has been in the game for some twenty five years, and made some of the most genre defining classics (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours), you’d think he would be starting to run out of steam by now? Hell no, and Trance proves that Boyle is as fresh, inventive, creative and stylish as he has ever been. And yes, there is a payoff come the end that explains everything in a gobsmacking finale that delivers all the answers you have been waiting for, and then some!
Viewers may argue that after such a complex film the end simply piles on even more information, and that by this time your brain just can’t take anymore. Rubbish! The ending could not have been any better, and while you have spent almost ninety minutes trying to decipher Trance, you will soon realise that it would have been better just to go along with it, and wait for the payoff. The finale is action packed, thrilling and incredibly emotional and once that bloody powerful soundtrack kicks in again, you might find yourself in a trance like state of emotion and euphoria that should have you leaving the cinema on a high. Hard work, but stunning!