Written by Andreas Babiolakis
Final Rating: 7.6/10
Trance is a movie Danny Boyle made after his masterful one man show 127 Hours, and in between preparing and working on the London Olympic Games of 2012. Filming happened before said games, and editing happened after. This script came to Boyle very early in his career, when he decided to put it on hold as he was inexperienced (he hadn’t even made Trainspotting yet at this time), but he still wanted to make this film eventually. So, Trance is a movie Boyle has wanted to make for years, and snuck in while working on the London Olympics. It shows.
Now don’t get me wrong, Trance is still quite a film, and it is your typical Danny Boyle film. You can just feel that something is a bit lackluster here, and it is that very script that a young Danny Boyle fell in love with, but an older Danny Boyle should have touched up more. An auctioneer, played by James McAvoy, takes part in a heist of the famous Goya painting Witches’ Flight. This heist is controlled by Vincent Cassel’s character Franck. When Franck and his fellow gang members cannot find the painting and McAvoy’s character, Simon, cannot remember where the painting really is due to a knock to the head (by Franck), they go to a hypnotist named Elizabeth Lamb (Rosairo Dawson) to try and get Simon to remember through hypnotherapy. Right off the bat, you can expect psychological thriller clichés.
Actually, this movie doesn’t use too many. You don’t experience too many things that are out of the ordinary unless they serve as a punch line or a statement, so you never feel like you are stuck in a state of disbelief. On the topic of believing, the performances are quite good. None of the performances are absolutely riveting, but every actor does their job and we can get behind any character, as the roles of protagonist and antagonist shift extremely easy in this neo noir. The cinematography, as per usual with Danny Boyle films, is absolutely gorgeous. Featuring some of the best shots in any Danny Boyle film (and that’s saying a lot), colours blend with characters, ideas, and words. Lines frame the characters and reflections carve into the shot like a knife against a fruit. The clever uses of wide angle lenses, close ups and distant shots is also something to take into account, as virtually every shot means something. Every shot looks like it came out of a lava lamp or a stained glass window. The use of colour and smooth, clear textures and objects is astounding. The special effects are brilliant as well, with some very memorable images that seem like incredible feats even for a Danny Boyle film.
But again, that’s all well and good, but the story is the biggest let down here. Is the plot good? Apart from a few hiccups, it is pretty tightly written. Is the story interesting? Absolutely. The concept is pretty unique, even with mental mysteries like Memento and Inception being in existence. The biggest let down is how predictable the movie is, and through this just how shallow the plot seems. Take a film like Inception, where Ariadne draws a maze that becomes reality within one’s dream. The maze surrounds all of the characters and seems like a real world environment, right? In Trance, it’s as if you’re looking at the maze still drawn on a piece of paper, and you’re running your finger through the maze to get to the end. Oh, and you use some highlighters to add some pretty colours.
The good thing is that Danny Boyle is a masterful director and he knows how to make the most out of any story (even his worst films will look captivating and be a little bit moving). The story is almost painfully obvious, and yet these twists still end up being beautiful and astonishing. Not because they catch us off guard, but because they are still revealed so naturally and so elegantly. I just wish they were kept a better secret. With that in mind, Boyle is one of the best directors when it comes to making climaxes in movies memorable, and Trance is no exception. The finale in Trance is an absolute spectacle, despite one or two questionable flaws; It is a visual and emotional rocket soaring into space.
The bad news is a psychological thriller absolutely needs to be unexpected whilst make a lot of sense and be as tight as possible. While the film does make sense for the most part, you may find yourself way ahead of anyone in the film. The good news is you may very well still enjoy the ride. It’s still admirable that even Boyle’s less impressive works, for the most part, are still highly enjoyable and, actually, quite great for the most part. I won’t be remembering this film for years down the line like I have with Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, and, of course, 127 Hours (a film that I highly suggest and would easily call one of the best films of recent years). I will, however, be able to appreciate it each time I watch it.