Film Review: Trance

Trance“Trance” is a film about a man having fun. It’s not one of the characters though. It’s not even one of the three main cast members, who are clearly enjoying being part of a quick-moving puzzle. It’s the director, Danny Boyle. He gets everything he wants; the stylish music video-like visuals, the pumping soundtrack, the complex plot. It’s all rather joyous. However it’s best you don’t focus too much on logic, or look for sympathetic characters. It will drive you crazy.

It starts off with the tone of a heist movie. Simon (James McAvoy) is our narrator, explaining how art heists have become more complicated over the years as security at auction houses have heightened. Simon works at a high-class auction house where paintings worth millions go under the hammer. During an auction on a painting surpassing £25 million, Franck (Vincent Cassel) and his gang burst onto the scene and steal the painting from Simon when he tries to take it to safety. In the process, Franck belts Simon across the head with his gun, leaving him near death on the floor.

It’s not really much of a plot spoiler, but Simon was involved in the theft; an inside job. Franck though soon discovers that the painting is missing, and so tracks down Simon upon his release from hospital. Simon says he’s lost his memory, and has no idea where the painting is, or why he would have taken it. Franck isn’t entirely convinced with the amnesia story, so starts removing Simon’s finger nails with a razor just to be sure.

The torture doesn’t work, and Franck is convinced Simon has amnesia. Turns out if people stick to their story while their finger nails are being removed, they’re probably telling the truth. Franck hands Simon an IPad (lots of Apple products on display here) with the yellow pages on, and asks him to pick out a hypnotherapist. Simon picks Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) out seemingly at random. Simon says he picked her because he likes her name. After Simon goes for a few hypnotism sessions however, Elizabeth soon figures out that something is going on.

Simon, Franck, and Elizabeth are our three main characters, and the story revolves around the way they interact with each other. All three have their likeable moments, but soon they shift into crazy territory, before bordering on plain scary. There’s very little reason we should empathise or trust them, but Danny Boyle is aware of that. He doesn’t want us to like them, because then there’s a chance we may believe their side of the story, which would completely detonate any chance of a twist.

There is a twist. In fact there are several. Quite a lot of them, mainly during the final act, are a little silly, but Boyle’s intention is just to create vibrant pulp fiction. He delivers on that, but because he wants to get as much in as possible, it pushes things a little too far on occasion. The more serious revelations that occur towards the conclusion feel like they’ve been forced in, and don’t really have a place in a pulp fiction story. Some people may also find the final scene a little too upbeat considering what has happened previous.

It’s a risk Danny Boyle is willing to take though. He keeps things going at a break neck speed; something he clearly delights in. It’s certainly not a coincidence that many of his most famous scenes involve people running. It’s clear that he is having a delirious amount of fun making this; enjoying the purity of the cinematic experience by playing with visuals and the narrative. Yes, it is rather hollow and all about the surface, but it’s still one of the most enjoyable films you’ll see this year.

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About Eric Wood

Eric Wood is 21 years old, from Bury in Greater Manchester, and a graduate of Salford University where he studied Journalism and English Literature. His first novel comes out later in the year, and he begins work directing his first feature length movie in the summer. Eric absolutely adores all forms of writing and loves movies so he’s the ideal film critic. His greatest inspiration for many years has been Michael Crichton, as Crichton has written novels, non-fiction, screenplays, and directed movies. Eric would love to be able to achieve all of those things in my lifetime.
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