Review: Trance

Poster for 2013 thriller Trance

Genre: Thriller
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 27th March 2013
Runtime: 101 minutes
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson
Synopsis: The inside man on an art heist takes a blow to the head, forgetting where a priceless painting is hidden. Desperate to find it, the criminal behind the heist enlists a hypnotherapist.



Danny Boyle is, quite rightly, considered a national treasure at the moment. His opening ceremony to the 2012 Olympics pretty much crushed the inherent British cynicism that had swept the nation for the years prior to 2012. Whilst he was setting up that incredible ceremony, Boyle was also making a film. That film was the incredibly bizarre mind-bender Trance.

At face value, the tale of James McAvoy’s character who is forced to enter his own mind in order to uncover the location of a stolen painting, looks a little like British cinema’s answer to Inception. However, Trance is a twisty-turny, ridiculous, overwrought mess of a movie that bashes the viewer in the head even harder than its main character.

That main character is McAvoy, who seems to be the star of every Brit flick currently appearing in cinemas (see Welcome to the Punch). His performance is layered and complex, with every narrative blow that hits the audience being yet another emotional blow to McAvoy’s head. Amply supported by Rosario Dawson’s complex hypnotherapist and Vincent Cassel’s crime boss, McAvoy is solid, until Trance goes crazy and his shoulders aren’t broad enough to carry it.

Trance is Danny Boyle going completely insane. It’s not the controlled chaos of Trainspotting or the engrossing character study of 127 Hours; it’s in fact a bit rubbish. The story is initially very interesting, with the frenetic opening invoking the crazy start of Trainspotting.

The revelation that there is far more to the heist and the hypnotherapy than meets the eye also begins interestingly, before Boyle and his film shoot off in a series of bizarre trajectories. It’s reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s Revolver in that it tries so hard to be clever that it forgets to be coherent.

Nothing that happens in the third act of Trance makes a single joy of sense. Every time it looks like the plot is going one way, it changes completely and does something entirely different. Each character is three different things and none of the stories quite coalesce into a whole. The whole product is more like a selection of ideas that seemed clever on paper, put together by a team with their minds set elsewhere. It can almost be forgiven, but not quite.

Danny Boyle remains one of the UK’s greatest film makers, but Trance will not go down as amongst his best work. It had the potential to be fun, but it turns the mental screws just a few times too many.


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