Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Thriller
Director(s): Danny Boyle
Release Year: 2013
During the 90’s, Danny Boyle was one of the masterminds behind the resurgence of British film. Filmmakers from the likes of Nicolas Roeg, John Schlesinger and Ken Loach had originally brought honest stories from a land of struggle and workmanship to the forefront of world cinema and gave Great Britain a reason to be proud to be who they were. During an arguable lull in the 80’s, British cinema came back with a vengeance with Danny Boyle’s Hitchcock-ian debut, Shallow Grave. A story of three roommates who are thrown into a dilemma when a briefcase full of money is thrust their way. The simplicity of its idea and concept let the theme of the film come forward and tell the story through simple character actions and a slowly paced plot. Within a few years, Boyle released the film that put him on the map, Trainspotting. A film of drugs and maturity, (or lack thereof) this movie was an influence to films all the way to our current day and age. After a few middling films (A Life Less Ordinary, The Beach) some underappreciated gems, (Sunshine!) and much more recent oscar bait-y dramas; (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) we come to the mindbending thriller presented before us.
Trance follows Simon (James McAvoy) through his journey after the head injury he receives during a art gallery robbery helmed by Franck (Vincent Cassel). Franck (yes, I’m annoyed. Do you think I enjoy adding a “c” to a name that doesn’t need it?) arrives at the hide out to find the painting he went out to steal was pulled out from under him and the only person to know where it is, is Simon. To retrieve the information from the recently injured Simon, Franck and his cronies have to hire the hypnotherapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to find out the location of the stolen painting.
Danny Boyle’s films are usually instilled with the elements of exciting and erratic camerawork, thrilling storytelling and incredible performances. While none of those details are missing in this film, it does not come to the sum of its parts. Every one of Boyle’s films (aside from Sunshine) has been shot by veteran DP, Anthony Dod Mantle. His style has been deeply imbued with Boyle’s to create a look where it’s not too hard to tell when you’re watching one of their films. Tilted angles galore, this movie is of no exception and it’s starting to become a hindrance to the story of his films. No longer, is Boyle using the camera as another tool to portray the narrative but rather as a stencil to fit action beats and dialogue into a scene. Nothing inventive is being used and this is starting to take its toll.
Another downfall of the film is how generic the overall use of the idea is here. For every twist and turn, there is an unsubtle hint coming a mile away about what will happen next. Characters will spout a line of dialogue that is isolated from all other lines to carefully let the viewers know that in case they didn’t get it, they should probably take that into account. Preposterous plot points are thrown into the mix if we ever start to get a little bored just to make things interesting, all the while making the audience’s level of disbelief reach incredible lengths. Along with the previous examples of idiocy from the movie, to top it all off, we are given plot excuses for ridiculous moments of nudity and extreme violence. Because there always needs to be an excuse for that sort of thing in a movie about unlocking a bit of information from someone’s head using hypnotherapy…
On the bright side, I still ended up enjoying the movie as the credits started to roll. The pacing of the film is, as it usually is with one of Boyle’s films, non-stop and never gives you a second to breathe. The fast paced editing from Jon Harris was absolute perfection and even better was the score from UK electronic music icon Rick Smith of “Underworld” fame. Pulse pounding and filmic all at the same time, it brings along a sense of immediacy and sheer fun to a movie that goes from mind bending thriller all the way to psycho-sexual action movie all within an hour and a half.
But if there was a movie that could insert absurd plot twists into every five minute gap, it would be this movie. Instead it inserts them in twenty minute intervals until we get to the end and they decide to shove at least seven into the climax. If there was a way to entertain an audience in a movie that involves hypnotherapy, this is probably a sound idea…but this is a film from Danny Boyle. While I have a feeling this is just a fun palate cleanser after his Oscar films as of late, Boyle can craft a way better film than this. He’s tackled heroin addiction, space travel, bollywood and zombies to much greater effect and I would easily recommend any one of those films previous films I’d mentioned before this but I still can’t say this wasn’t a fun ride when all was said and done.