Friday, 18 October 2013

Trance (2013)

Somewhere between Slumdog Millionaire and producing the fantastic opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics Danny Boyle managed to squeeze in the production of Trance.  It might be a little apparent that his attention was a little divided, and by that I mean it's no Trainspotting, but it doesn't stop the film from being entertaining.

What we have in Trance is a psychological crime thriller (and depending on your thoughts on hypnotherapy, it might be a little sci-fi). After a robbery at an auction house goes off the rails and the painting goes missing, the inside man who last had his hands on in suffers a bout of amnesia. Looking to fill in the blanks the thieves call in the services of a hypnotherapist and set themselves down a road full of twists, turns, false memories and distorted reality.

Danny Boyle's created something that feels a lot like a more grounded version of Inception. Everything in the film is technically possible if you accept that unlikely things always happen in movies. You get similar dream-like atmosphere but with a lot less of the crazy action. The hypnosis factor draws you in and leaves you guessing at to exactly what's real, what's happening under the trance and what's a false memory. As the film progresses it might be a little too much for some, myself included, and you get to a point where you just throw your hands up and say "I'll just wait 'til the end to figure it out!". Even then there does remain a certain pleasure in just going along with the ride.

There might be a few too many twists and turns along the way, but it gives Boyle ample opportunity to mess with you in another way. From the get go it's never clear whose side you're supposed to be on exactly, and considering everyone in the main cast is some sort of criminal, it makes it easy for allegiances to slide from character to character throughout the film right up until the final conclusion.

Of course, credit for that doesn't just lie with the director though. While the cast might no be quite A list (yet), they give an A rate performance. James McAvoy is one of Britain's biggest upcoming stars at the moment, after making the jump from TV to big pictures in 2007 with Atonement, he's just gone from strength to strength (including what looks like a delightfully sleazy time in Filth). He's fantastic at both ends of the spectrum; at home as much as the snivelling coward as he is the vengeful psychopath he just has a knack for taking characters on a real journey and changing, for better or worse.

Backing McAvoy up are Rosario Dawson (Death Proof) and Vincent Cassel (Black Swan). Dawson takes the lead as the intelligent and scheming Elizabeth Lamb, the supposedly legitimate hypnotherapist enticed by the thought of a payday from the underworld and a break from the monotony of treating over-eaters and smokers every day. Then there's Cassel doing what he does best: being somehow suave and incredibly seedy at the same time as the French ringleader of the heist gone wrong.

The three of them together make for an interesting dance throughout the course of film, each taking centre stage for long enough to play with your head as to who should come out on top, who's in the right and who's actually telling the truth. Trance might not ever be near the top of Danny Boyle's biggest hits, but it'll put you under its spell for an hour and a half and not disappoint.

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