Trance photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgBritish director Danny Boyle’s latest creation is a mind-blowing heist movie in the world of hypnotherapy. Our story concerns a selling agent of fine-art named Simon (James McAvoy) who works at a prestigious auction house just like Sotheby’s but not Sotheby’s. Some thieves led by crime boss Franck (Vincent Cassel) attempt to steal Francisco Goya’s Witches in the Air after being sold for $27 million. Simon, who is actually in cahoots with the criminals, attempts to double cross his cohorts and hide the artwork for himself. But he suffers a blow to the skull in the ensuing fracas. Now he can’t remember what he did with the painting due to his amnesia. Needless to say, Franck is more than a little displeased and forces Simon to visit a hypnotherapist in an effort to jog his memory.

The importance of memory has been a common theme in Boyle’s films. Trance is the latest example. As Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) probes deeper into Simon’s subconscious, the developing story takes on a depth that becomes more twisty than was initially apparent. The pacing is brisk and the personalities are fascinating. The mood is particularly exhilarating. The style exhibits the joy of a filmmaker that is relaxed. His fun is infectious and I was ready to be taken on an exciting trip. Once again Boyle taps longtime collaborator Rick Smith of the band Underworld for the pulsating score. The music throbs with a life that energizes the plot. All of this lays the groundwork for a head-scratching finale.

Trance is a well acted thriller. The narrative is surprisingly straightforward for the majority of the drama.  It’s not hard to follow. So that makes the developments of the final third a bit troubling. A chaotic eleventh hour action sequence flips everything completely on its head. You‘ll question what you’ve just witnessed. It plays fast and loose with the motivations of the characters. Assumptions are dashed. It tinkers with the conventions of hero and villain. If you’re content to rest in the hands of an auteur and allow yourself to go where he takes you, you should enjoy this film. As a self avowed fan, I was willing to put my faith in the director’s vision. You’ll end up debating the specifics though. Was a particular event real, a dream, a recollection or a suggestion? And who did what and to whom? To be honest, I’m still not sure how to interpret what happened, but for some reason I didn’t care that my expectations were destroyed. I think the journey was sufficiently entertaining that I didn’t mind the misdirection. In fact I kind of enjoyed it.

29 Responses to “Trance”

  1. Great review, Mark. I saw this one a few days ago and really liked it. It’s oh so stylish and very twisty, which I loved.


  2. GaryLee828 Says:

    Yeah, I thought you’d like it – especially that score! 🙂 I agree with your review. I, too, was a little unsure of some details in the 3rd act, but I kind of shrugged it off b/c I enjoyed the experience – especially the performances of the cast, McAvoy in particular.


    • You were spot on about the soundtrack. I love it. The track “Bullet Cut” that you mentioned is a favorite. “The Heist” is pretty amazing too.


      • GaryLee828 Says:

        I really think you’ll like french horror movie “High Tension”. The soundtrack, while not nearly as elaborate as the one for “Trance” is very effective and it plays into the mood of the story. It’s not typical screeching horror strings intended to jolt the audience awake; it was actually the work of a DJ/Music Producer that Alexandre Aja (the director) discovered and asked him if he could use for his new movie b/c it was perfect for what he was looking for.

        The music manages to dial up the “tension” while remaining in the background; combined with the immaculate directing from Aja and performance from Cesar winner Cecile De France this movie is brilliant! This was the film that inspired me to pursue screenwriting. There are a few brutal murder scenes, but the large majority of the time is suspense. With Aja’s directing and the score in the background it feels surreal, like you’re in a dream.

        I know you said you read some things about it that made you cautious of its content, etc. but I think you’d enjoy the experience. When I was browsing movies to rent on Amazon last night I saw this one for $1.99 – so if you’re at home looking for a movie to check out, I highly recommend this one for you. And keep in mind, some people really hate the twist ending at the end, and I admit that I didn’t like the twist, either, but the movie was so well done up until that point that I didn’t even care. I generally ignore the last 15 minutes of the film, and focus on the first 75 minutes which was near flawless. THIS is how you do a low-budget horror movie! 🙂


  3. Wonderfully succinct, as always Mark. This movie was a real treat and its good to see others thought there were some over complications later in the movie, but also which did not bother them enjoying the film.

    I esp appreciated certain “trippy visuals…”


  4. Good review Mark. It’s fun if you like your thrillers twisty and turny, however, there’s not much else under the surface with these characters. Not so bad though when you have a fun movie like this.


  5. I can’t say I’m a fan of Danny Boyle. Certain films (Slumdog Millionaire) I love. Others (Trainspotting) just turned me off a bit. So I’ll put Trance on my maybe list. The visuals would help me see it. Great review.


  6. Nice review. I like Boyle’s earlier films more than his latest and I hear this is a good throwback.


  7. martin250 Says:

    Nice review and the story sounds like it had the potential to be great.

    when you wrote “As Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) probes deeper into Simon’s subconscious, the developing story takes on a depth that becomes more twisty than was initially apparent” , i thought about Inception which i rewatched a few days ago.

    am not a self-avowed Danny Boyle fan because i didn’t like Trainspotting. but really loved Sunshine, especially its score. Also liked how he handled 28 days later and the Beach, and once again their music.

    but i will be seeing this film. the story sounds quite thrilling.


    • Yes Inception is a good comparison on a similar theme. I didn’t make it though because so many reviews have already mentioned that and I wanted to say something different.

      You should really enjoy this. The score is fantastic!


  8. Good review! I liked this one too, very stylish and well acted but somehow the story is not quite right.


    • The ending probably doesn’t hold up upon close inspection. Although I’m not quite sure. Who knows? It was bonkers. I still enjoyed it despite the confusion.


  9. I missed the press screening for this but I’m still curious enough to rent this one as I like McAvoy and this looks like a different role for him that challenges him as an actor.


    • James McAvoy seems to be channeling a younger version of Ewan McGregor.

      It’s still playing in theaters. I think its style will benefit from a widescreen viewing.


  10. I’m a HUGE Danny Boyle fan so I was really disappointed to read all the negative reviews I kept seeing of this film. Yours is the first that I’ve come across which is mostly positive.I’m now more hopeful about how I’ll feel when I finally do catch it. A lot have complained its confusing so its reassuring to hear you say its not hard to follow. Your comments about the final act are very similar to others I’ve seen however which makes me very cautiously optimistic.


  11. Nice review. I liked Trance, even if it did fall apart during the third act. The stylish modern nior becomes so twisty that when it begins to unravel it results in a messy third act. McAvoy’s opening voiceover is oddly abandoned and as a narrator it is his job to at least stick with it; it’s as if the writers gave up on the idea.

    Dawson was M.V.P for me.


    • It was hard to follow but I liked the unpredictability of it all.

      P.S. I felt bad for Rosario Dawson. Those full frontals were totally unnecessary. I haven’t felt that way about a nude scene since Halle Berry in Swordfish.


  12. A lot of twists and turns in this one. I was along for the whole ride and I still can’t explain the ending. But, I don’t care, I still liked it a lot. 3 1/2 stars


  13. Victor De Leon Says:

    Good write up, Mark. A fun read. I love Boyle’s work and it’s a rare thing for him to stumble in that 3rd act. It’s bound to happen to the best of them I suppose. I’m a sucker for heist films so I’m sure I will enjoy this none the less. I love twists. Sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the review!


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