Review: Trance

TranceMovie Poster

Director: Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later)
Screenplay: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Producers: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson
Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 101 min.

Hot off the heels of having the world in the palm of his hand with the Olympic opening ceremony, Danny Boyle delivers his first feature film since the harrowing 127 Hours. Trance is a bewitching puzzle of a thriller that’s off-kilter fun from start to finish, reminding us of Boyle’s amazing ability to surprise his audience.

James McAvoy plays Simon, a fine art auctioneer who teams up with a gang of criminals in order to steal an expensive painting. However, the robbery doesn’t exactly go to plan, the painting goes missing and Simon apparently can’t remember what happened to it after taking a nasty blow to the head. The leader of the gang (Vincent Cassel) then decides to enlist the help of a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) in order to unlock the memory in Simon’s head of where the painting is located.

In the hands of a lesser director, this complex tale of greed, sex and obsession would become convoluted and fold under the weight of its own ambition. However, Boyle is one of the most accomplished directors around and he stays fully in control of this tricky story.

It’s a whole load of fun trying to unravel the puzzle along the way but the movie reveals its bag of secrets bit by bit, slowly but surely, giving you hints and clues along the way so that it doesn’t end up feeling like a cheat by the end. It achieves that sought after feeling of the audience wanting to be fooled and not only accepting it but ultimately appreciating it. It does what all good mystery thrillers should do and stays one step ahead of the audience.

The film is also wholly fascinating in the portrayal of its characters. It plays around with audience expectation, who you root for, who you’re supposed to root for and you’re never quite sure what the characters are going to do next or how their actions will reflect the outcome. In that way it’s a pleasingly unpredictable experience, increasingly splitting off into directions you didn’t initially expect. It may be chaotic in places but you’ll probably be having too much fun to notice or care.

A lot of the film’s success is down to the trio of performances at the center of it. McAvoy is always a watchable presence but he brings a unique, edgy dynamic to the proceedings here. Cassel, one of the most brilliantly charismatic actors working today, is as fascinating to watch as ever. And Dawson is sultry and unpredictable in a role that gleefully plays around with the femme fatale persona.

Set to a pulsing soundtrack, Trance is a slick, stylish thriller that, like its central premise, messes with your head in the best of ways. Any wheel spinning around the middle section doesn’t last for long when it takes off into a bravura, genuinely surprising finale. It’s a film that takes you by the scruff of the neck from the get-go, bombarding you with twists and turns and leaving it down to you to figure it out as it goes along. You’re never quite sure where it’s going and that’s the best kind of compliment you can pay it.

Click “play” to see the trailer:

This review was previously published at Thoughts On Film.

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David Brook

This sounds great. I haven’t been blown away by a Danny Boyle film since Trainspotting to be honest (although I haven’t seen Sunshine yet), but this looks like something I’ll enjoy even if it has flaws or niggles. As for Boyle’s last few films, 127 Hours was decent but didn’t live up to expectations for me. I didn’t think much of Slumdog Millionaire at all – the central relationship never established itself strongly enough for me to care. And, I hate to say it, but I was never a huge fan of 28 Days Later either, other than the incredible opening half an hour.

Kurt Halfyard

Actually DANNY BOYLE’s last truly GREAT film was SUNSHINE, a film that has taken some time to come into its own, but at this point, lets just all agree it’s a goddamn masterpiece.

Andrew James

I’ve come to realize that Boyle is my sixth man when it comes to favorite living directors. Dude just constantly churns out awesome.

Sunshine and 28 Days both blow me away with each watch.

i can’t wait to see Trance!!!!

Andrew James

The Cinecast will be a love fest then. Though McAvoy isn’t the problem. The “1990s thriller” storyline was the problem.

There is so much dumbness in this movie it really REALLY makes me disappointed. I didn’t hate it (visually it’s great) but yeah pretty much bored.

And the final 10 minutes of spelling out everything is almost an automatic fail for me with any movie.

Sean Kelly

I very much liked the film. :/

Jericho Slim

After the first 20 minutes, you kinda know exactly what type of movie Trance was going to be. So I just kind of sat back and waited for either 1) the “explanation” ending or 2) the “open to interpretation” ending. Meanwhile, I just looked at the pretty pictures. There was no sense of danger or stakes, because I knew that each scene could be false, and I didn’t care to try and unravel the “layers”.

All in all, it was great to look at, but just “pretty good” as a movie.