Movie Reviews

‘Trance’: Is mesmerizing

By Travis WongMovies - 01 May 2013 12:15 PM

‘Trance’: Is mesmerizing

Movie details | Watch trailer | Photo gallery | Buy tickets

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Danny Boyle's latest film is slick, smart but just a little too smug. Like ‘127 Hours’, ‘Trance’ is a mindf--k movie and tries to be more intelligent than it really is, dropping references to Classical art, psychology and the auction world. 

Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a Goya painting worth millions of dollars, but after suffering a blow to the head during the heist he awakens to discover he has no memory of where he hid the painting.

When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang's leader Frank (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon's psyche.

The premise is more ridiculous than Steven Soderbergh's recent film ‘Side Effects’, which was also a psychological drama. Like that film, it relies a little too heavily on contrivance.

Also read: Danny Boyle and his hypnotic 'Trance'

The movie kicks off in high gear with Simon giving some lowdown on how the art auction market works, dumping a lot of exposition in the first few minutes. During an auction of one of Goya's paintings, a heist takes place, and it seems that the criminals have managed to take off with the art piece with Simon trying to stop them. 

However, it is later revealed that Simon was in on the game, but has not quite delivered the painting. The movie loses its momentum with the visits to Elizabeth, as she conducts probes into Simon's mind to unearth where he has hid the painting.

Boyle has managed to put in enough reversals and reveals to keep the story moving and the audience guessing. It all rises in crescendo to a showdown between the three main parties, but Boyle really overdoes the music in the climax. 

Dawson is the one that holds the movie together, as she walks on the knife edge between the gang and Simon. She manipulates the situations as expertly as she does the two sides, playing them off each other.

McAvoy plays Simon as someone constantly only the edge, ready to fall off the precipice at any moment. Later on, he seems to acquire some of the shooting skills that he displayed in ‘Wanted’; maybe Elizabeth's hypnotherapy really did dig out old memories.

Cassel rises above the standard Euro-trash tough guy that he seems to be, and becomes part of a love triangle between Elizabeth and Simon. 

Some of the twists are a little too convenient and the movie bears many hallmarks of Boyle's other work.

It has more style over substance, as Boyle attempts to bludgeon you with breakneck pacing and over orchestration of images and sound to swallow the plotholes and contrivances.

At the end of the film, you're likely to wake up and pick over plot holes and details, but during the course of the movie, Boyle reliably puts the audience under his spell.

‘Trance’ opens in theatres 1 May 2013


Travis Wong is a film loving geek who got his start from frequenting video shops in JB. He frequented movie theaters more often than school, and received his cinematic epiphany when he watched 'Taxi Driver'. While not driving a cab, he haunts DVD shops, and he currently has the largest remaining collection of VHS tapes and Laserdiscs in the country.