When 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.