Monday, April 15, 2013


If you put Inception, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Vanilla Sky and the sexuality-as-sin oeuvre of Adrien Lyne and mixed them with a mild hallucinogen, it might look a bit like Trance, a derivative and frustrating mind-bender from Danny Boyle.  The problem with the picture is that as it unravels and unleashes twist upon twist, it becomes achingly clear that there's not much to the mystery whatsoever.  There's certainly nothing wrong with a stylish little yarn that craves nothing more than to wrap your mind in little knots, but the entire film is nothing more than a McGuffin, an endless distraction to the fanciful tricks of a director wanting to simply show off.  The overdone mechanics feel edited to the point of exhaustion, but devoid of the simple pleasures of entertainment.  It's slightly strange coming from the nervy and fascinating stylishness that Mr. Boyle can typically deliver even the slightest of genre trifles-- before the filmmaker leaned to more prestige fare like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, he wrought a delightfully seedy elegance to sleek B-thrillers like Shallow Grave and 28 Days LaterTrance feels like a step back for the mere fact that not for a second can any moment can be taken even momentarily as played straight.

Set in the elite British art world, Trance begins by setting up requisite rules, only to abandon them a few scenes later.  The film does this again and again and again.  Simon (James McAvoy) is a tweedy art auctioneer who suffers amnesia after the botched theft of Goya's masterpiece painting Witches in the Air.  It is revealed he was a part of the heist, but can't remember where he hid the painting, of which is perplexing to leader of the pack goon Franck (Vincent Cassel; tops at playing the oiliest of men.)  Bereft of ideas, Simon decides to see a hypnotist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) in an attempt to find out where he may have hid the painting.  The proceedings become more and more convoluted and ridiculous as Elizabeth becomes more entangled with Franck and Simon, as the prisms of memory, dreams and reality become further linked together.  On the outset it sounds like a hip and trippy zinger and for the first third of the play, there's a promise and smidgeon of thrills to match Boyle's trigger happy zeal.

However upon enveloping twists, it's clear the filmmakers are more interested in pulling the rug under us as much as possible to keep the conceit going and suddenly Trance finds itself in the bargain basement realm of shlock M. Night Shyamalan terrain.  Written by Joe Ahearne (with a touch-up job by John Hodge), the film reveals itself to be little more than a tease, a glimmer of the great fun a nifty twister could provide giving the tight elements of something resembling structure.  I promise not to provide spoilers, but Trance feels somewhat spoiler-proof because its confusing and hardly cares enough to add up in the first place.  The character of Simon hardly makes sense to begin with and as played with the bland cuddliness of McAvoy it becomes harder to chew upon.

It's curious that Trance was made while Boyle was preparing for his duties as director of the Opening Ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympics because the film reads rushier, more frantic and splattered all over the place.  And while a stylish abandon adorns the movie at every turn (with lots of help from the gifted cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle), there's such a lack of control that as it shrugs to its concluding nonsense, the logic has outnumbered the visual finesse and it just feels limp, of which is somewhat ironic for a movie that hinges a huge plot point on the flesh of Rosario Dawson's body.  D+

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