Director Danny Boyle has one of the more impressive resumes in Hollywood. ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ were critical home runs and most of his other projects are well-regarded in some form or another.
Simon (James McAvoy) is an art auctioneer who is robbed of a priceless painting by a gangster named Franck (Vincent Cassel) and his goons. When Franck unwraps the package at his secret lair, it is discovered to be gone. Simon had, apparently, taken it from the frame before the robbery.
It turns out that Simon and Franck were in cahoots the whole time, but after receiving a blow to the head in the robbery, Simon cannot remember where the painting was hidden. He is tasked with selecting a hypnotherapist to try to jog his memory and he randomly chooses Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson). After a few sessions, Elizabeth senses that something isn’t quite right and that Simon might be in trouble.
Can Simon remember where he hid the painting? Will the two of them run afoul of the mobsters who are also after it? Is there more going on here?
There are so many familiar elements in this, it hardly seems to be a story worthy of the director. A decade or two ago, this would have been fine but there have been a lot of heist movies and a lot of movies involving false memories/hypnosis, wacky twists. Smashing this all together doesn’t equate something new.
Long stretches of this are quite boring and it’s not until the end where the pace abruptly picks up to resolve all of the conflicts. Much of the time, we are in empty rooms with Elizabeth using her psychoanalytical-speak to put various characters under. If the story was tweaked and some of the gorier, more violent late-game parts of the story were removed, one could call this vaguely reminiscent of something by Hitchcock (how often has his name come up with these kinds of movies?!). That’s a real stretch in this film’s current form.
Some of Boyle’s trademark visual flair comes through but that is mostly muted in favor of presenting the story in a (somewhat) straightforward manner. One could argue that there is so much deception, wild visuals would have only caused further confusion but a little extra visual flair would have gone a long way toward tiding us over until the last third where things really start happening.
One very positive aspect about the story is that it is never clear exactly who is ‘good’ and who is ‘bad.’ A non-traditional approach is taken in terms of dealing with the true roles of these characters and their initial impressions may be deceiving.
Special features include: a look at making the film and coming up with the final draft of the script.
‘Trance’ came and went from theaters with barely a sound. Considering Boyle’s talent and success, that was a surprise but seeing the finished product gives all the evidence one needs to conclude that it was the right decision.
Only hardcore Boyle-worshippers need to bother with this.
Add an extra half star to this rating.
Rated R 101 minutes 2013