Starring: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel
You may like this if you liked: Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010), The Game (David Funcher, 1997), Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe, 2001)
Simon (McAvoy) is a top London auctioneer overseeing the auction of a priceless Goya painting. A gang of criminals lead by Franck (Cassell) attempt to take the painting and apparently are successful; however Simon managed to hide the painting. During the robbery a blow to the head by Franck put Simon in intensive care and he can now no longer remember where he put the painting. It is then revealed that Simon is actually part of the gang and Franck orders him to see a hypnotist to help him remember, Simon then goes to see Elizabeth (Dawson) to help him remember. However, this process is not as simple as first thought and what is required is a deep trip inside Simon’s subconscious as memory and reality become extremely blurred. All this for a bloody painting!
So much has been said about Danny Boyle’s status as a ‘national treasure’ after his excellent job of the Olympics. Leaving that all to one side he is first and foremost a film director, and in my view a very inconsistent one. From, in my humble view, complete classics such as Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, underrated classics such as Millions and Sunshine, an extremely overrated Oscar winner in Slum dog Millionaire and over ambitious failures such as The Beach and A Life Less Ordinary. One thing to his credit, he likes to give different genres and styles a go, and Trance is certainly different to anything else he has done. That appears to be a good and a bad thing here in my view.
I will try my best to avoid spoilers, and I think I can easily achieve that by saying all the inevitable plot twists and turns are all to be taken with a pinch of salt. For me, firstly there is not enough actual plot here to truly care too much about all the jumps between reality and imaginary. With it being hard to care about the minimal plot, then perhaps the desired impact of all this supposedly mind bending narrative is very minimal. To care too much and to actually think about the half baked plot would be to actually realise there is not too much going on and it is all rather predictable. It is also hard to care about the characters as they have no redeeming features, the acting from the three protagonists is fine, but they are all actually characters that we would rather have nothing to do with. The other four members of Cassel’s gang all fit so well into cockney geezer stereotypes it all feels a little embarrassing.
However, to not think too much is the best way to approach Trance. This is a very well made, stylistically audacious piece of film making. It is obvious Danny Boyle is having tremendous fun here using all the different techniques he can possibly think of. The use of heart pounding music is excellent, all the different styles of shots fit together well with the excellent neon cinematography. Trance is however a pure example of style over substance, but as long as you accept this, when the style is this good the whole experience is tremendous, but forgettable, fun. This however does lead Trance to feel like a film about film making. However, with Danny having this much fun, it is impossible not to enjoy it with him. This is not essential Danny Boyle, but one of his most ludicrously entertaining guilty pleasures.
Trance is a surprisingly very hollow and predictable experience plot wise, but made in such an audaciously breathless way that it is a very entertaining trip.