Movie Review by L.L. Soares
Danny Boyle has become a director who a lot of people equate with quality product. My favorite movie of his remains TRAINSPOTTING, which was a breath of fresh air when it came out in 1996, but before and after that he made such memorable films as SHALLOW GRAVE (1994), 28 DAYS LATER (2002), SUNSHINE (2007), SLUMDOG MILLIONARE (2008), and 127 HOURS (2010), the latter of which had James Franco memorably cutting off his own hand after a rock climbing accident. So a new Boyle movie is usually something to look forward to. But then again, this is the same guy who also made the completely awful A LIFE LESS ORDINARY (1997), so you can’t expect a home run every time.
I had mixed feelings about TRANCE when I saw it, and continue to feel ambivalent about it in retrospect. Boyle’s new movie seems brilliant at times, and ridiculous at other times, but fairly entertaining throughout. It’s one of those movies that feels the need to be overly complicated, trying to keep the audience constantly guessing what is really happening, and these kinds of movies tend to be more tedious than riveting.
When TRANCE opens, we meet Simon (James McAvoy, who most people will remember as the young Professor Xavier in 2011’s X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), who works at an auction house in London that deals in expensive paintings. We get an interesting crash course in what employees are supposed to do in the event that there’s a robbery; how to keep priceless masterpieces out of the hands of criminals. So of course, there is a robbery for real, led by criminal mastermind, Franck (the always terrific Vincent Cassel), and Simon, who was always told not to try to be a hero in such situations, decides to be a hero, and gets cracked in the head for his troubles.
He wakes up in a hospital bed, with a case of amnesia, and an angry Franck, who wants to get his hands on Goya’s “Witches in the Air” (a wonderful painting, by the way) which has gone missing. Simon knows used to know where it was, but can’t remember anymore. So Franck takes him to a hypnotist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson, who has been in everything from KIDS, 1995, to JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS, 2001, to SIN CITY, 2005, and Tarantino’s half of GRINDHOUSE – “Death Proof,” 2007 ).
So far, so good. This one’s got a solid cast and a compelling premise.
The bad guys wire Simon up with a microphone, so they can hear his sessions and get the painting that much quicker once they learn where it is. But something goes wrong. Elizabeth gets wise to what’s going on and wants a cut of the money the painting would bring. She also plays mind games with the bad guys, demanding that they let her hypnotize them as well, to make Simon feel “less vulnerable.” And it turns out, not everyone has all their cards on the table – various characters have hidden motivations that we are not privy to at first, and things get complicated.
By the time we get to the big reveal in the last half hour, I wasn’t sure if I liked this movie or not. It went through some highs and lows getting to the big explanation, but once we get there, I was pretty satisfied with how things ultimately unravel.
McAvoy is a decent lead character, both sympathetic and unlikable in equal turns, and Cassel (who was so terrific in movies like Gaspar Noe’s IRREVERSIBLE, 2002, and Darren Aronofksy’s THE BLACK SWAN, 2010) plays bad guys like this well. But the movie is easily stolen by Rosario Dawson in every scene she is in. Sexy, smart and electric on the screen, it is Dawson who ultimately won me over for this movie, and it is her character who I wanted to reach the end with all the marbles.
I still think that TRANCE is a little too complicated for its own good, and for a while there, you’re not sure if certain crosses or double-crosses are real or in the minds of characters that have been hypnotized. But for the most part, I liked this movie. I just don’t think it’s in the same league of Boyle’s best films.
If you’re a Boyle fan, or enjoy a good thriller, you should check TRANCE out. But be prepared for a bumpy ride getting to the answers.
I give it three knives out of five.
© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares
LL Soares gives TRANCE ~three knives.