Film Review: Trance

TranceWhen Danny Boyle was announced as the creative director for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games, there was a fair amount of WTF-ing, but he managed to turn something no-one really cares about into something really quite impressive. Of course to us film fans, Danny Boyle is pretty well known but this brought the diminutive Mancunian attention on a truly global scale, even more so than his 2009 Oscar win for Slumdog Millionaire. And what better advert for his first film since the Olympics, Trance?

Simon (James McAvoy) is an art auctioneer who gets involved with a Franck (Vincent Cassel), a criminal who has agreed to wipe his gambling debts in exchange for helping to steal a hugely valuable painting. However, when Simon gets hit on the head and can’t remember the location of the painting, he seeks the help of hypnotist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to help him remember.

Trance does an excellent job of keeping you hooked throughout. It’s pretty perfectly paced and is neither a minute too long nor too short. However, it’s a film that had very little lasting impact for me. I was entertained for the 100 odd minutes the film was on, but almost as soon as the credits rolled, I felt somewhat indifferent to the whole thing. It plays out like a pretty standard heist flick for part of the film but when Elizabeth gets thrown into the mix, it becomes much more cerebral with nods to films such as Inception without ever displaying the style or the substance of Christopher Nolan’s film.

It ticks along at a fair old pace, which constantly keeps you glued to the screen but, much like Soderbergh’s Side Effects, when it comes to twists, turns and double bluffs, there are just too many in too short a time and the whole thing starts to feel a little brain bending. This is no doubt the point, but it doesn’t really give you the opportunity to fully make sense of things before the end of the film.

One area where Trance does excel is in its aesthetics. It looks superb, which is something we’ve come to expect from Boyle’s films. Each one of his films has a distinct visual style and Trance is no exception. From dark and grimey underground settings to spectacularly lit nighttime vistas, Trance is visually very impressive, but it does feel like Boyle is papering over the cracks a little. For example, his constant use of canted camera angles to give the film a dream-like quality is less than subtle and becomes a little distracting.

All of the actors do a decent enough job, but none are particularly exemplary. James McAvoy is fine and does nothing wrong, whilst Vincent Cassel could be replaced with just about any other actor; his talents simply aren’t put to the test here. Rosario Dawson probably comes out of this with the most credit, but the script still doesn’t really allow her to stretch herself as perhaps it could.

Trance is by no means a bad film. It’s fun and frenetic, but it’s also largely forgettable, which is not a criticism often attached to Boyle’s films. It’s a film that definitely deserves a place in the director’s filmography but, unfortunately, doesn’t come close to troubling those at the top.

3 and a half pigeons

3.5/5 pigeons

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51 thoughts on “Film Review: Trance

  1. CMrok93 says:

    A crazy flick that you never know where it’s going to go, and that’s the whole fun of it. It may not have the best characters in the world, but at least it shows Boyle at his purest, unadulterated fun. Haven’t seen that in awhile. Good review.

  2. filmhipster says:

    That poster is pretty to look at first thing in the morning…yikes.

  3. Had to skip the review Chris, as I plan on seeing it reviewing it myself one day. Peeked at the score though, I guess that’s decent.

    Its going to be a limited release here I think, so my chances of seeing it in theatres are slim and none… 😦

  4. keith7198 says:

    This looks to be one of Boyle’s edgy flicks which I’m not the biggest fan of. Still interesting to hear all the viewpoints on it. Good review bro.

  5. Looking forward to watching it, if only for the aesthetics….

  6. Interesting. Got to be honest, I’m the biggest Danny Boyle fan (for me, Trainspotting and Shallow Grave are by far his two best films) – and this one didn’t have huge appeal. Still, apparently the Trainspotting sequel is next on the agenda so can’t wait for that.

  7. Heard mixed ones about this, although I have such a lot of time for Boyle I’ll be catching it anyway.

  8. ruth says:

    Wow, this is uncanny! I was actually scheduled to see this tonight but I had to cancel because I have another commitment relating to a local film fest. Well, from your review, sounds like it’s best that I wait ’til this is on dvd. I’m not too fond of Side Effects but I probably would enjoy this more as I LOVE McAvoy!

    • “I have another commitment relating to a local film fest” – ooh get you 😉 Shame you had to cancel as it’s a decent film, but I would agree that you probably would miss out hugely by seeing it on DVD. And Mr McAvoy is good here, so I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with him.

      • ruth says:

        Oh I’m sure he was, he never disappointed me in anything. Well the reason I couldn’t go is because I have to watch The Angel’s Share as I’ll be interviewing Paul Laverty tomorrow, you’re familiar w/ him, no? He works w/ Ken Loach a lot.

      • Oh very nice indeed Ruth! I know the name Paul Laverty but couldn’t put a face to it, but that’s pretty cool you’ve snagged an interview. If you’re posting it up then I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it.

  9. Novroz says:

    I like your review, very fair as you highlighted the best and the not so good parts of the movie.

    I am planning to see this because I quite like Boyle’s works. I wonder will I also think it’s forgetable or not

  10. frameraters says:

    I loved Trance. Agree that it’s not his ultimate work (Sunshine and 28 Days Later are my favourites), but it was a jolly good romp with a fantastic soundtrack to boot!

  11. sati says:

    Great review! I like old Boyle – Trainspotting, Shallow Grave….Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours are too flashy for me. I’ll see this one for the actors, but I’ll probably wait for DVD to do so.

  12. Great review, man. Very curious about this one. And that poster is amazing!

  13. Garrett says:

    Good review. It sounds like I’ll wait for the DVD of this one, too. That sure is an awesome poster!

  14. Tyson Carter says:

    Not really my cup of tea but nice write up buddy!

  15. Mark Walker says:

    Hhmmm! Was hoping for a higher rating here Chris. I’m really looking forward to this one. Sorry to hear that Cassel is wasted. He’s a real favourite of mine. Oh well, I’ll still be checking it out but great review.
    I recently seen McAvoy’s other release, Welcome To The Punch and that wasn’t really up to much.

    • Thanks Mark. It was by no means a bad film, I did enjoy it, no doubt about that. I just felt it was a little hollow and got a bit messy towards the end. You may get a lot more out of it than me though, I’d be interested to know what you thought. I really like Cassel too but I didn’t think he really got given the chance to shine here. He was decent but I’ve seen him do better. I was hoping to catch Welcome to the Punch as I like David Morrissey but I’m not hugely disappointed that I haven’t got round to it. McAvoy looks in a very similar role to this one from what I can tell.

      • Mark Walker says:

        The style and performances were good in Punch but the story was seriously lacking. I was hoping for a good McAvoy hat-trick between Punch, Trance and the forthcoming Irvine Welsh adapatation Filth. At least the first one hasn’t cut it for me. I’ll get onto Trance next.

      • I didn’t realise he was in Filth. I imagine you’re itching to see that one? I literally know nothing about it!

      • Mark Walker says:

        Yeah there’s not much info on it to be honest. I haven’t heard much either. I just know it’s released this year. I’m not expecting a Trainspotting repeat but I am looking forward to it.

      • I’ve actually just watched a trailer for it on YouTube. I think it was only released yesterday by the looks of things! McAvoy looks insane!

      • Mark Walker says:

        Have you read the book? It’s really crazy shit. I imagine a lot of people will be shocked by it, if it sticks to the book that is.

      • Nah I haven’t read the book but I would give it a go, I enjoyed Trainspotting once I’d got my head around the language thing. The trailer for Filth certainly looks pretty crazy.

      • Mark Walker says:

        The title of “Filth” says it all really. I know it’s a reference to the police but the character and events in the story are disgusting man. It’s great but not chirpy or easy reading. I really hope the film has the audacity to do the same.

  16. claratsi says:

    currently writing a review for this so I apologise for not reading in full, came through Reddit (FYI). I will recall to see if we match up. I thought it was very good and even though it wasnt a complicated in the end as it would first have believe it was Boyle’s style that really made it a great trip.

  17. Bummer to hear this one was a little disappointing. I’m still looking forward to catching it — I just won’t go into it with high expectations.

  18. Popcorn Nights says:

    Nice review Chris. I like all of Danny Boyle’s films without ever really loving any of them apart from Trainspotting, and have a feeling I’ll feel the same way about this one once I see it. Sounds like it’s visually very interesting from what you say…often find his films are amazing to look at but there’s just something lacking elsewhere that makes them great (I’m thinking Sunshine, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire here).

    • Thanks Stu. I really like Boyle’s films (think Sunshine is the only one I haven’t seen) but I agree that none have quite grabbed me in the way that Trainspotting did. This is a good piece of fun but it’s not much more than that, which is unfortunate.

  19. ooh, headache from the poster there! Nice review, I’m a little disappointed to hear this isn’t so great…but then again, I guess I;m not surprised – I don’t think Boyle has ever been as good as Trainspotting…

    • Haha, yeah not an easy poster to look at, that one! Seems to be a lot of people who think Boyle has peaked with Trainspotting, but that’s a near perfect film in my opinion, so I don’t see how he could top it. This isn’t a bad film, just nothing memorable.

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