Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Trance

The degree to which you’ll think Trance is a good, or even great, movie will depend heavily on how well you can absorb it’s twist(s). A lot of that will depend on how well you like twists in general, and that can and will vary wildly but if it helps it’s a well done twist, probably one of the better ones I’ve seen in a while.

But I can’t talk too much about the twist without revealing what it is, so let’s start from the beginning. The plot is concerned with James McAvoy as Simon, an art auctioneer, whose prize painting is stolen, but is clubbed over the head trying to stop it. He awakes months later and it turns out that A) he was involved in the robbery, B) that he stole the painting from the robbers and C) that he can’t remember where he stashed the painting. So the head robber Franck (Vincent Cassel) hires a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) to help him remember.

So yeah, we’re literally less than 15 minutes in and the plot is already ridiculously complex, and it’s not getting any simpler. It might seem, on the face of it, to be an excuse for an odd director to work with his extremely odd style (it’s directed by Danny Boyle…I can’t believe I’m just now mentioning that) and it’s the sort of thing the director of Sunshine could probably do in his sleep by now. But he’s on board enough for the fun of visualizing hypnotism.

Boyle is an odd director, and while his direction is not quite as bizarre or interesting as some movies I’ve seen this year (or in his career) he certainly adds a unique touch, with some great cinematography and unique editing techniques employed to visualize memories, both real and imagined and their interplay, and while he falls back on some of the well known techniques in visualizing hypnosis (such as the therapist appearing the visuals themselves) these techniques are well used because they’re effective and Boyle uses them well. They combine with a subtly unique color palette and an eclectic soundtrack (done yet again by Rick Smith) to make the movie feel unique even when it’s walking a familiar trail (which it isn’t, for very long).

The story and script present a lot of difficulties to the actors, because they have to sell a lot of weird changes in character over the course of a very strange story arc, and they all do solid jobs. Cassiel has the most comparatively normal performance and while he’s very good in it, it means he gets overshadowed by Rosario Dawson, who has to sell a pretty big aspect of her character on her own and especially James McAvoy, who is once again proving that he is a pretty goddamn good actor when he puts his mind to it.

The script might or might not be an issue. There are a few moments that feel like plot holes or issues that get skipped over or go unexplained, but given the number of moments I was able to identify in retrospect as foreshadowing and build up, it’s possible that those moments weren’t actually plot holes. I’d have to see it again to be sure.

And I will want to see it again. Trance may not be Boyle’s best work, but it’s definitely a good, perhaps even great, film from this increasingly bizarre year. The spring lull is almost over which means the summer season is about to be upon us, so most of you will have your rosters filled with blockbusters. But while you still have time for the small indie films, I’d definitely recommend Trance, if only to see how a twist ending can be done right.

Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he’d like to tie Shyamalan down and make him watch this movie Ludivico style.

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