Monday, April 15, 2013
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+