Thursday, 4 April 2013

Trance: Review

Danny Boyle attempts to out-weird himself in this thriller 

Ever watched a film that's not the same at the start as it is at the end? No? Well go and watch Trance, it might be a good experience. Whilst Danny Boyle's latest venture is a good enough watch, it goes through several stages of strange, leaving the watcher bemused as to precisely what's going on. 

The film begins, to all intents and purposes, as a heist movie. The story follows James McAvoy's character enacting an inside-job to steal a valuable rare painting with his criminal counterparts, led by a convincingly French Vincent Cassel. However, he receives a blow to the head, and can't remember where he hid the painting. To discover this, they take him to a hypnotist, who wants a stake of the booty for herself. An interesting, and simple, enough premise; one that got me hooked without knowing anything more of the film. However, the film decides to delve far deeper than what that would suggest, piling on levels of detail, leaving me wondering whether all of it is entirely necessary. Some elements (integral elements, in fact) are explained in one monologue, and, whilst the use of flashbacks is effective at watching the threads come together, it often poses the question: "Where did that come from?"

Focussing on the positives, the acting across the board is all excellent. James McAvoy is, as ever, a pleasure to watch, making his character feel highly realistic and tangible (even if the character itself is little implausible; more on that later). Vincent Cassel makes a character with plenty of potential to be bland engaging, and Rosario Dawson holds afloat the several layers of her character gracefully. However, character is one of the problems; it is highly inconsistent. McAvoy goes from being a low-level criminal, to love-sick puppy, to abusive boyfriend; Dawson goes from accomplished professional, to greedy schemer, to manipulative femme-fatal. Cassel is the only character who remains recognisably intact throughout the whole thing.

As mentioned before, the film begins like a heist one, but it certainly doesn't end that way. After the first act, the movie begins to get more an more surreal, full of strange dream-sequences and hallucinations. Boyle, to his credit, does a great job at capturing the weirdness, but towards the end the hallucinations, flashbacks and dreams happen practically consecutively, making it difficult to distinguish between them. Also said before, some of the detail just feels superfluous: rotting bodies in the boot and talking blown-apart heads just don't fit with the tone of the film, and the nudity was nothing more than gratuitous. It loses sight of itself, which bemused me massively, and made the whole thing come across as messy. 

The dialogue in the film is generally excellent, although the hypno-speak gets a little wearisome at times. The soundtrack to is fast and punchy, reflecting the pacing very well. But it still smacks of wanting to have it's cake and eat it; sometimes it's a heist film, sometines it's a psychological thriller, and at a couple times it tries it's hand at being an action film. If it'd stuck to being one thing or the other, this had potential to be an absolute cracker. But, alas, it spread itself too thin.

The ending tries it's hand at being Inception, and works surprising well; calling it a cliffhanger is largely overstating it, and I don't imagine there's a sequel coming any time soon (there were less than ten people in the cinema when I went to see it), but it leaves plenty to the imagination, and for once fit the tone of what the film decided it was at that point.

Overall, though, this film is a bit of a mess. In terms of tone and characterisation and development, it just can't make up its mind, making it confusing to watch. If you try not to think about it too hard, you'll enjoy yourself, but otherwise, you'll come out wondering precisely how much LSD the cashier put in your popcorn.


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