Trance (2013)

If being put to sleep has the ability to get me laid, then hey, where do I sign and let the loving take a hold?

Simon (James McAvoy) works at a fine art auction, but also has a huge gambling problem that only gets worse when he needs the money the most. That’s when Frank (Vincent Cassel) decides to take him under his wing, get him involved with an art heist, and have Simon pay-off all of the debts he has to owe. Problem is, Simon not only messes up the job by losing the painting, but can’t remember where he last put it because of a severe-blow to his head. In order to gain his memory back, they hire hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) in hopes that she will bring back ideas and hints he may had once remembered from before. However, things aren’t as easy with Elizabeth once she gets involved and realizes that there is more at stake than just a painting and whole bunch of moolah. As usual, emotions and feelings have to get involved.

Trance isn’t, and definitely won’t be, the last flick to cover the idea of making the human-mind a setting for a thriller, but it still shows you what you can do when you have an age-old premise, and throw some fun and style in there for good measure. It’s sort of like Inception, if Chris Nolan liked leather nights with his wife; or Eternal Sunshine, if Joel and Clementine liked robbing art museums; or even The Matrix, where instead of fighting off dudes in suits and sun-glasses, they just had sex, ALL THE TIME. Take those three flicks, put a little sexiness in there for good measure, and top it all off with the style from Danny Boyle, and you got yourself a pretty decent, little thriller. However, this is Danny Boyle we’re talking about here, which means: shouldn’t it be better than just “decent”? Yerp, that’s what I thought.

Get that pretty face out of there, James!
Get that pretty face out of there, James!

It cannot be denied that Boyle doesn’t love playing around with genres and even testing himself in some way or form. No matter what the type of story he tackles, Boyle always finds something new to show us that he can do and pull-off with ease, but never having us forget that it’s a Danny Boyle movie through-and-through. His style is just that definitive, and what I liked about his direction here is that he always has something interesting to show us on-screen, even if the story isn’t what I’m speaking of. Colors show up randomly; thumping music continues to build up and up and away; and scenes that you wouldn’t expect to be beautiful, surprisingly are in a very artful kind of way. But at the fore-front of this movie is a story that likes to mess with your mind and that is exactly what Boyle does, and has a hell of a time doing.

Since most of this movie is dedicated to us never wondering what’s real, what’s a dream, or what’s all of this dude’s imagination, we are sort of left in the dark with wondering what’s going to happen next or what certain scenes do or do not mean. For most films from some directors, this would kill the audience and easily lose them; but Boyle is different. The guy seems like he really understands just what it’s like to throw an audience off of their game, bring them back down to the ground, and then throw them back in the air one last time before he lets it all come back, and repeat the same cycle over again. Because we never know what is true or isn’t, we are just left to think for ourselves, but Boyle continues to throw clues, hints, red herrings, and slight-foreshadowings at us to make us feel like we have the big-picture in the grasp of our palms. But we don’t, and that’s what has Boyle so happy. He never seems to lose his essence of fun and continues to build up tension, suspense, and mystery as this flick gets deeper and deeper into this dude’s mind, as well as it’s story. However, that’s the exact problem with this movie: it’s story.

Where this film goes all wrong is that it begins to get more and more serious as it trudges along, which wouldn’t have bothered me, if I actually cared for anybody in this movie. But that’s what the problem is: I just didn’t. I don’t know if it was because I was more involved with the story, the dream sequences, or the idea that I’m going to be stooped at the end of it all or what, but something was not fitting so well with me and these characters, and I think most of that problem comes from Boyle’s direction. You know, the very same direction that I’ve been praising for about first 1/3’s of this review. I know, I’m inconsistent. Bite me.

I think where Boyle loses himself is the idea that he can toy with us, the audience, have us believe something, and then throw something else at us, making us not exactly sure what it means or what this is, in the consideration of the rest of the entire story. Boyle loves doing that, but when it actually comes down to apples and oranges, making us care for these characters and finding out what’s really at-stake here: the guy loses control. He focuses way too much on the plot, the twists, the turns, and the happenings, rather than the actual characters that inhabit it and keep it ticking. You never feel like these are people you can easily get behind and even though they do get a few scenes, here and there, to where you feel like you see them for what they are, Boyle then continues on with a scene that’s just crazy or intense, and thus, we are lost on any type of character-development whatsoever. Once again, this would have been A-okay with me, had he not gotten so damn serious, and decided to make this a thriller that was more about humans, feelings, and their emotions, rather than people fucking around with one another, where guns and violence is the only solution to finding and figuring out the problem. And yes, in a Boyle flick, the latter aspect is totally possible and could have as well happened here; but Boyle digs a bit too deep, gets lost, and tries to go back the same way he came, only to have us confused in the process. Still, can’t talk too much shit on this guy because he might as well be the very same guy keeping the glue in-place.

Run, Rosario, Run!!
Run, Rosario, Run!!

The characters may not be fully-fleshed, but the cast still tries to make us forget about this fault. James McAvoy is good as Simon, the dude who’s mind is continuously fucked-with and does a fine job at showing us how confused and screwed-over a person can be when they don’t know what’s real, and what isn’t, but it doesn’t cut any deeper than that. McAvoy feels like he should be a tad bit crazier in this role to where we never know if he’s going to jump off a bridge, cry himself to sleep by eating a tub of ice cream and watching re-runs of Days of our Lives, or go bat-shit crazy and start blowing-off every mofo’s head off in sight. His character should have been that unpredictable in nature and in action, but McAvoy keeps him too grounded, to where we almost feel like we can calculate his every move. Not a good sign, especially when you have a character that could have been toying with us, as much as the director was.

The only character in this movie who seems to be doing any toying-around with our minds, perceptions, and emotions is Rosario Dawson as hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb. Dawson is good here because she uses that sweet, calming voice of hers to great-effect where she eases the tension and makes us feel like we are in a special place, where good things happen to good people, and everybody walks around with smiles on their face. Her character could have easily been the most-developed one of the bunch, but she even suffers because her character never seems to be on the right track of what to do, how to do it, and is constantly messing with other people. She tells people certain things that aren’t true, makes them think other things, and when all is said and done; seems like she’s the one with the upper-hand, totally going against her zen-like feel we see in the first couple minutes of her introduction. No matter what changes or transformations her character goes through, Dawson is always good, but I wish her character seemed more in control of her emotions and actions, especially when that said character is one that takes care of other’s emotions and actions.

Surprisingly, the most-developed and most-sympathetic out of this whole cast is Vincent Cassel as Frank, the head kingpin that just wants his money, his respect, and his freakin’ painting. Cassel is usually good in the stuff that I see him in, but is usually one-note where he is always bad, he’s always villainous, and always has a mean-streak that never seems humane in the least bit. He’s good at playing it, but it gets old after awhile, which is why I thought it would have been the same thing around again, in this flick. Thankfully, Cassel is given more to work with where we see his character’s true feelings and emotions come out and get a full-feel for the dude, as he seems like he could just change his ways, if he gets what he wants. Yeah, sounds a bit snobby, but hey; the guy’s worked too hard, for too long to not get what he ventured-out for in the first place. Cassel’s character is good and his performance is believable. Hopefully, just hopefully, this is a sign that the guy can play people with a soul and not the type of dude that bashes people’s heads in. Totally justified, but damn man. Scaring the shit out of me over here.

Consensus: Nowhere near Boyle’s best flick, especially considering what it is that we’ve seen from him in the past decade or so, but Trance is still him at his most-entertaining and most-pleasant where he toys with a genre we see and feel like we see so much of nowadays, plays with it’s conventions, and always keeps us guessing until the final scene.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Damn. That gypsy lady's hot."
“Damn. That gypsy lady’s hot.”


  1. Still really looking forward to this one. This good review makes me think it’s a little similar to Soderburgh’s supposed “last movie”, Side Effects…is it that convoluted and confusing with some crazy plot twists? In either case, I’ll be checking it out .

  2. Good Review Dan! You are right, it is not his best work but very much enjoyable. It reminded me of Nolan’s Memento and Inception a little bit.

  3. I loved Trance. I actually enjoyed the fact that I didn’t know who to ‘root’ for in the film as every character had his / her flaws. It did get a little too crazy in the middle, which left me confused, but overall I thought it was solid. As you say, not Boyle’s best, but definitely a great film nevertheless.

    • It’s worth the look because of how much fun Boyle has, but the characters let it down for me. And this is the same guy who’s able to make us care for some dimwit who gets stuck under a rock for more than 3 days. Bummer.

  4. Nice review Dan. I enjoyed Trance but didn’t love it. I was pretty hooked through most of it but it lost me somewhat towards the end and it’s not a film that stayed with me much afterwards. Definitely not his best work but entertaining nonetheless.

  5. Terrific review Dan! I wish I could have seen this one but I haven’t got a chance to. I did see Jurassic Park 3D which was cool and I reviewed it.

  6. Great review. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. I think Danny Boyle is a phenomenal director, but haven’t been a big fan of his recent work since the visual feast that was “Sunshine”. This seemed like it could be a return to this period for Boyle, though it seems it is not without its shortcomings.

  7. Pretty much agree with everything you say here. Vincent Cassel is really good as well. He’s always a watchable actor. Even in a film I saw a while back where he suddenly busted out a load of kung-fu moves for no reason. He’s achieved two goals that would keep me happy for the rest of my life. Number one is learn kung-fu. Number two is marry Monica Belluci.

  8. […] “Nowhere near Boyle’s best flick, especially considering what it is that we’ve seen from him in the past decade or so, but Trance is still him at his most-entertaining and most-pleasant where he toys with a genre we see and feel like we see so much of nowadays, plays with it’s conventions, and always keeps us guessing until the final scene.” – Dan The Man’s Movie Reviews […]

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