Monday, April 15, 2013

Trance (2013)

I'm just glad this wasn't about the German club scene...

Rather, Trance is about Simon (James McAvoy), an employee at an auction house.  He explains that even with all the modern precautions taken, theft is still a real problem when dealing with very rare, expensive paintings.  Just like you've heard if you've ever worked retail, if you are robbed, don't be a hero.  None of this is worth your life.

So, of course we begin with a theft of the auction house and Simon attempts to thwart one of the thieves as he's about to get away with a rare painting.  He takes a blow to the head and is hospitalized.  We then begin the overly complex, twisty nature of the plot when we find out that Simon was actually in on the theft, but decided to double-cross the thieves.  The problem is that the blow to his head has left him unable to remember where he hid the painting, and his partners want it now.  They send him to a hypnotherapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), to help him remember.

I've never bought into hypnotherapy all that much, but we see that Elizabeth is some kind of super-hypnotherapist, so lets just go with it.  When Elizabeth's meets Simon, her initial reaction to him is extremely odd, and you're already wondering what the hell is going on.  Then, she becomes inexplicably involved with the gang as she attempts to help Simon remember.  Why is a hypnotherapist so willing to get in so deep with a bunch of thieves, you ask?  More is revealed as the film continues.

This is the main problem with Trance.  I began the film questioning what was going on and the motivations of the characters, and I never stopped.  You have a setup that's already a little shaky to begin with, but then they keep adding twist after twist to the point where it becomes totally convoluted.  As things are revealed, you become more frustrated with the plot, rather than engaged or satisfied with the conclusion.

Another weird part about the film for me was that you never see the authorities at any point.  Remember, this whole thing revolves around a very expensive painting getting stolen, and it clearly hasn't been recovered, but nobody is investigating this?  This just adds to the feeling that the whole story is some elaborate fantasy, and dreamlike sequences are featured throughout.  This is another frustrating part of the film as you're constantly wondering if what you're watching is real or yet another dream sequence.

However, these dream sequences are visually stimulating.  I was looking forward to Trance as I enjoy director Danny Boyle's visual style, and he didn't disappoint.  Trance is a beautiful film.  Nearly every scene of the film has a great effect or interesting camera angle, and those those trance/hypnosis scenes lent themselves to great use of color.  It's unfortunately another example of a movie I enjoyed for it's look, but the story just doesn't hold up.  To add to the disappointment, the story was co-written by Joe Ahearne (based off his TV movie) and John Hodge, who wrote the screenplay for Trainspotting.  This is a collaboration that I thought would have been a homerun, but it's more of a ground-rule double.

Besides the visuals, another strength of Trance are the performances.  I'm a big James McAvoy fan and I really liked his range going from someone that's reserved to becoming a little unhinged by the end.  Rosario Dawson was also very good, and be warned, there's a surprising amount of frontal nudity from her.  The character I enjoyed the most though was Franck, played by Vincent Cassel.  Cassel has that look about him that just screams bad guy, and I feel like he's been typecast as that shady criminal type, but he's just so fun to watch.

Trance has the great visuals and style that we've come to expect from Danny Boyle, but the story itself is overly-complex, messy, and has a disappointing conclusion.  If you're a fan of Boyle's I think you'll get enough out of the look of the film to enjoy a run through it.  There's no need to rush out and see this one though.  It's a rental.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

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