Director: Danny Boyle
MPAA Rating: R
Mind-bending psychological thrillers can often be fun films to watch. They require the audience to become active participants as they try to solve this puzzle. It demands that you pay attention or you may miss a critical piece. Needless to say depending on the nature of the film a certain level of “suspension of disbelief” may be in order. Films like Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island even James Mangold’s Identity come to mind. All three films deal with a twisting plot where nothing is what they seem. Danny Boyle’s Trance falls into this category but unlike the three films mentioned it is quite unconvincing.
After a brazen heist of a priceless painting, a group of thieves enlist the aid of a hypnotherapist to jar the memory of the person, an art auctioneer with amnesia, who last handled the now missing piece. This is the set up which leads to a twisting road that pretty much sticks to the conventions of the genre. Twists upon twists. Is this a dream or is this real? Twists within twists and so on. As the film progresses each new piece revealed adds more complexity to the proceedings as opposed to clarity. That’s not a bad thing by any means. It’s just that with each new plot twist the film becomes less and less engaging because the film gradually becomes to hard to swallow. On some occasions the film can become unintentionally funny. None more than in a scene as it relates to female pubic hair and its place in art or when Simon has an unexpected conversation with a shooting victim. Both scenes were played dead serious but resulted in chuckles. However, ultimately it’s the endgame that really makes or break the film. For this viewer, the endgame was too neat and not convincing which resulted in the rest of the film becoming somewhat forgettable.
Danny Boyle does give this thriller some flash and style. He does seem to relish in twisting things around with his rapid-fire cutting and camera tricks. Thanks to Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography it can often be great to look at. Boyle’s films are often known for their soundtracks and Rick Smith has composed another solid Boyle-esque score. Boyle has reteamed with screenwriter John Hodge, unfortunately the film is not as strong as their previous efforts.
The acting ranges from alright to pretty good. James McAvoy delivers yet another intense and earnest performance. He is very convincing as Simon, the man with the amnesia. Vincent Cassel is okay as Franck the crime boss. He just doesn’t have a whole lot to do though. Rosario Dawson is Elizabeth the hypnotherapist. She doesn’t fair as well because her performance is rather one dimensional. As insensitive as it may sound, her character arc is the weakest of the three.
Overall this is a less than engaging thriller whose plot twists are not readily evident. It is great to have turns that are unpredictable just not when they start to become even sillier than the one before it. In the end you may talk about it for a short while but it’ll likely be forgotten soon after.