DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Trance

Monday 29 July 2013


The idea of Danny Boyle doing a Christopher Nolan-style heist/con thriller is enticing but Boyle’s imposing style however, bold and unique, just doesn't fit the material. What starts out as a clever puzzle film about hypnotism and art thievery detours into a sanctimonious tragic love story washing away everything we desire from a cutthroat noirish genre film.

Trance (2013) dir. Danny Boyle
Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson

By Alan Bacchus

As expected from a Danny Boyle picture we’re jolted immediately with a raucous action sequence, in this case a deft heist sequence of a Goya painting from an auction house, and narrated by hero James McAvoy in the same direct-to-audience manner as Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, The Beach, etc etc.

We come to learn McAvoy was the inside man on a job with resident baddie Vincent Cassel and his criminal syndicate. Things go wrong when McAvoy attempts to subvert the hand off of the goods to Cassel causing him to get pistol-whipped into losing his memory of the location of canvas.

Enter Rosario Dawson hired by Cassel to hypnotize him into remembering where he put the canvas. Gradually as the backstory of McAvoy’s motivations and the revelations from the hypnotism emerge the pictures waxes and wanes between con-man style double-crossing and a Shallow Grave-style neo-noir. Eventually the film settles down to a three-hander much like Grave but grounded in a syropy soul-redemption melodrama.

Three-hander crime pictures tend to work best as distilled procedurals with uncomplicated motivations pessimistic and cynical. Danny Boyle’s first film Shallow Grave exemplified this. Later Boyle’s films became increasingly optimistic and celebratory of the human spirit. And he did this very well. But turning Shallow Grave into a soapy character study dulls the sharpness of the genre.

The complex plotting plays around with the repressed and recovered memory themes of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, a film, for me, which suffered from the same engrossed emotional grandiosity.

Anthony Dot Mantle’s polished and colourful cinematography is a marvel but fails to elevate the material beyond its narrative failings. Danny Boyle’s usually astute pop music sensabilities doesn’t seem to fit here either.

Trance is no doubt a failure, but an admirable one. We can never really fault a director for ambition. Boyle’s voice and vision is clear and present, in the same way as A Life Less Ordinary was –another overcooked but admirable failure.


Trance is available on Blu-Ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

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