Trance – Danny Boyle gives you a head trip you won’t forget

Danny Boyle has long since proved himself to be one of the best directors of all time. With films such as Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours and many more, he manages to give us something beyond just an entertaining watch, using stunning visuals and shocking storylines that also make us think. Not only this but he also recently won our hearts by directing the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic games in London: an enthralling spectacle, patriotic without being saccharine and, more importantly, FUN. After this success Danny Boyle is now back in the world of film with Trance, his new hypnotic thriller starring James McAvoy.

The story to Trance begins like any usual thriller: Simon (James McAvoy) is a down on his luck art auctioneer who finds himself in trouble during an art heist. There are procedures in place to take the most valuable painting and stash it out of harm’s way, but in the panic of the heist and because of a nasty bump to the head courtesy of one of the criminals (Vincent Cassel) Simon forgets where he hides it. This group of nasty crims aren’t going to let him get away that easily though and are determined to find out what happened to it. The only solution seems to be to force Simon to go to a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to try and get the elusive secret out of his head. This being a Danny Boyle film though there is more than one twist to come in this strange tale of human behaviour, the subconscious and secrets…

The story for this head trip of a movie is the first noticeable element that pushes it beyond the pale of where usual Hollywood thrillers lie. After the initial usual thriller opening (heist gone wrong, bag guys after a good guy) it becomes an outlandish plot filled with crosses and double-crosses, the characters beginning to question each other (and even themselves) as secrets and lies are exposed. But it is when some of these secrets are discovered to be just fantasies that it really gets interesting, and it is this back and forth that makes for a fascinating tale that will keep you gripped until the enthralling fast-paced climax. The script itself, written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge, is superb and expertly structured throughout. The many twists and turns of the plot are so well-hidden that they can’t be guessed, and when they are revealed they are completely feasible. However there is an inevitable problem with a film like this. There sometimes seems to be one too many twists for the film’s own good (especially the very final one), meaning that if you thought about the story too much it would probably start to come apart at it’s many seams. It might have also benefited from leaving some of it’s multiple questions unanswered to create a more ambiguous film that would leave the audience debating it. But still it is to Ahearne and Hodge’s credit that the overall story to Trance is enjoyable while it lasts.

The performances alongside this mesmerising story also reel you in. James McAvoy is excellent as Simon, the put-upon auctioneer who is unsurprisingly responsible for where he ends up. Without revealing too much about his character, McAvoy is convincing in a role that like the story turns him about more than once, creating an emotional character who is frustrated with having the truth kept from him when others seem to always be ten steps ahead of him. Rosario Dawson is also great as Elizabeth, the seemingly vulnerable hypnotherapist who is anything but. Like McAvoy her performance keeps the film’s story and twists together, her performance and stoic exterior hinting at something hidden beneath Elizabeth’s surface. The other standout is Vincent Cassel as Franck, the leader of the gang of crooks. Cassel at first plays Franck as a stereotypical, menacing thug who hits first and asks questions later. But gradually Cassel starts to peel away Franck’s layers, revealing a softer and even vulnerable side to him. In fact, every character hides something beneath their surface in Trance, which becomes apparent as the story twists ever on…

The main element that draws you into Trance and engrosses you though are the impressive visuals, the usual signifying ingredient of a Danny Boyle film. Boyle’s assured and entertaining direction fills Trance with canted (or dutch) camera angles serving as a perfect metaphor for the psychological state of Simon (and some of the other characters as well). The recurring images and motifs that Danny Boyle and his cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle use throughout create a dreamlike atmosphere making you (and Simon) question everything that happens. The striking colourful visuals that Boyle usually employs on his other films are also in use here, creating vivid imagery that sticks in the mind and further adds to the effect that all is not what it seems in Trance. It is also certainly to Danny Boyle’s credit that his and Anthony Dod Mantle’s neo-noir style and camerawork is again another element that puts Trance above the usual thriller and makes it stand out.

Danny Boyle’s Trance is a brilliant film that is expertly shot and directed with an immersive and impressive story. There is more than one moment throughout which is so superbly written and shot that it throws the whole diegesis off-kilter, making you question if it is real or not (or for that matter, if the entire film itself is real or not) creating something truly fascinating and bizarre. Some won’t appreciate the twists and turns though and it might have benefited from more ambiguity at some points rather than spoon-feeding the audience the answers. However Trance is still an entertaining neo-noir that will leave a lasting mark on your memory. Dive in to another of Boyle’s masterpieces and emerge yourself in the mystery.

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~ by square-eyed-geek on April 10, 2013.

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