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Fox Searchlight Pictures // R // April 5, 2013
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
You know the Hollywood conventions that we've all become so familiar with? Numerous movies are released with this narrative structure each year, but the unconventional pictures are more likely to introduce a larger amount of creativity. At the same time, they aren't concerned with leaving audiences with a warm feeling inside. Danny Boyle's Trance has the very specific goal of putting its viewers within a hypnosis, similar to that of the lead character. We're left to differentiate between fantasy and reality in order to put this story's puzzle pieces together. The majority of the picture is quite fantastic, but the final act derails in ways Boyle isn't able to fix before the credits begin rolling.
Simon (James McAvoy) is an art auctioneer who is responsible for the safety of the rare and expensive pieces. In the situation that they are being robbed, he must transport it to a safe location before the criminals obtain it. After Franck (Vincent Cassel) and a group of robbers show up with guns, Simon finds himself mixed up in the heist. After hiding the painting, he gets hit over the head and loses memory of what happened. In order to recover the art piece, the criminals force him to see a hypnotherapist, named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson). Her job is to extract the information, so that Franck and his partners can retrieve the painting.
Trance begins with simple narration from Simon's perspective, which is quickly dropped. Not only are we following his story, but the audience is also getting within his head. The closer you get to the ending, the further you'll find yourself trapped within Simon's mind. The deeper he descends into this trance, the more insane everything gets. Screenwriters Joe Ahearne and John Hodge manage to deliver this transition in a smooth and fluid manner. They grab ahold of our attention fairly quickly and don't loosen their grasp for quite some time. The plot captured my curiosity, as it had me unsure about what would happen next. There were multiple sequences that had me sitting at the edge of my seat in anticipation. Once the second act kicks into high gear, Trance pulls its viewers in strange directions, but these decisions keep the film feeling fresh. The plot is constantly moving from one scene to the next, without giving a single moment to take a breather. Danny Boyle delivers quite a bit of tension through the first two acts, but it doesn't last through the entire running time.
Once the third act comes along, it begins to feel quite strained. In fact, it feels as if the filmmakers were confused with where they should take it next. A plot that was once unpredictable somehow leads us to a path of unsurprising developments. Ahearne and Hodge attempt to deliver some unforeseen twists, but they aren't very difficult to figure out. This film held numerous unique quantities, but it finishes on a generic and disappointing note, which doesn't leave a very good aftertaste. The characters you once believed to be emotionally powerful quickly evolve into weak clichés. A lot of bold choices were made earlier in the running time, which made me question why they stopped taking such risks. Some of the narrative structure is similar to that of Trainspotting, which is still considered to be a film that pushes its expected limits. However, Danny Boyle keeps us within the trance for the majority of the movie, but the final act will snap you awake. You'll find yourself begging to go back under.
Even though the ending is a letdown, the majority of Trance is an incredibly captivating piece of cinema that will keep you glued to the screen. The story jumps around a lot, which would make a second viewing entirely necessary. It's never confusing, but there are small details that might become more prevalent after seeing it again. Given the picture's subject matter, Danny Boyle is able to constantly cross the border between reality and fantasy. This makes it easy to simply allow the picture to "wash over" you, but a lot of his material is delivered in a subtle manner. He's never afraid to mess with our perception, especially with the uses of some sound motifs, such as Simon tapping on a glass window. The final act is clearly the weak link, but don't allow it to stop you from checking this out.
Regardless of the genre, Boyle is always able to pull excellent performances from his cast. James McAvoy is our lead character, Simon. This role could have easily been overacted, but McAvoy is very grounded. He's incredibly natural and believable on screen, which will make viewers more interested in following Simon's story. On the other end of the spectrum, Vincent Cassel plays Franck. This character is constantly losing his temper, but he has a few genuine moments. Cassel adds a lot of depth to Franck, as he demands our attention whenever he's on the screen. In the middle of the two personalities, Rosario Dawson delivers a solid performance as Elizabeth. She's convincing as the hypnotherapist who places herself directly in the middle of the action. When these three actors are on screen simultaneously, the interactions they share are quite marvelous. This is a well-acted feature from top to bottom.
It isn't very surprising that Trance looks as marvelous as it does, since it was made by the same director of Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting. He utilizes an intriguing color palette and a series of engaging camera angles. The filmmakers have most certainly put a lot of work into the editing and sound design in order to immerse audiences in this hypnosis. The score fits with most of what we see on screen, but there are a few times when it becomes a little bit too ambitious. Some of these scenes might have actually benefited from the absence of the score. Despite my small nitpicking, this picture contains an excellent audiovisual design.
This is a solid thriller, but it doesn't measure up to Danny Boyle's previous films. The first two acts are absolutely superb, but the third act isn't able to hold up. However, audiences will be glad to hear that this is still a unique piece of filmmaking. It's successful in immersing its viewers into a hypnotic state, which will leave you still thinking about it after the credits are done rolling. The ending walks in predictable footsteps, but everything before that is entirely absorbing and inspired. There aren't very many movies like this out there, so embrace it. Trance is an artistic experience well-worth having. Recommended.