Danny Boyle is so admirably unpredictable in any movie he makes, and any choice of genre he chooses to follow. Ranging from space operas, novel adaptations, and zombie movies to a cut-your-own-arm-off bio pic, finally to direct the opening to the Olympic ceremony, one thing you can certainly say about Mr Boyle, whether you like him or not, is that he is very unpredictable. And just like Danny Boyle himself, Trance is very unpredictable.
It begins as a heist movie, the object of the robbery being a Goya, worth £25 million. This masterpiece is stolen in broad daylight from a London auction house, in which Simon (James McAvoy) works as an auctioneer. Simon, who is addicted to gambling, is hit over the head by a fellow heist-man, resulting in failure to remember where he hid the painting.This is where ‘Trance’ gets its literal meaning, when a hypnotherapist tries to help Simon remember where the painting is through intense sessions. This is where things start to get a little complicated. The film was both good and bad, and the film is almost as difficult to explain as it is too understand.
Similar to Fight Club, Total Recall or Inception, Trance is difficult to explain without giving too much away. It is the kind of film in which the less you know, the more enjoyable it will be for you. But in contrast, Trance leads you to a climax and then suddenly turns you away on a different trail, it doesn’t fool you so much, it more sways you in the wrong direction and keeps you guessing. Trance seems to spoon feed you the answer, whereas Inception lures you into a sense of security and then plonks that huge twist in front of you.
The nudity and gore makes this film so typically Boylean. The film opens with a beautifully illustrated Scorsese-style speech from the main man. It also has its fair share of gore, I mean- I can put up with most gore, hell, due to Tarantino, gore is a walk in the park for me now, but some thing did get me in this film. Let’s just say I won’t be putting ‘watch a man get his nails ripped off’ down as a favorite thing to watch.
Trance in itself is visually distinctive, the cinematography is quite frankly beautiful, all titled camera, fractured reflections and nothing is what is seems to be, in both film and photography. Many scenes are awash with monotonic colours, with blue being the most prominent. Ariel views of London are a nice touch, it is also nice to see a birds-eye pan without having your eyes water due to an overwhelming amount of CGI.
The flashbacks are left in fragments in which the audience are left to pick up the scattered pieces. I can understand why Danny Boyle has decided to do this, to make the audience feel like the protagonist, but in Trance, I feel like it being slightly overdone. The film was pretty much steady throughout, boasting quite a good script and consistent haziness, however, I was completely disappointed with the ending, and for me, it almost ruined a good film. The film is entertaining and engaging and if taken as a whole, very intelligent. What the film really suffers at, is having like-able characters or at least someone with morals.
McAvoy was great, although unrelatable, he was fairly believable. The rest of the leads were good, however, it was hard to completely focus on acting style when you are greeting with a cinematic puzzle you have to piece together yourself, with no help from uncooperative characters. Trance got you talking at the end, be it criticism or confusion. The true beauty of this film is that all the annoying ticks you have about Trance are intentional. The unspecific ending is intentional, the lack of thread to help you understand is intentional and the lack of relatable or like-able characters is…yes, you guessed it….intentional.
What this film does do is show off Boyle’s style. This film is filled to the brim with style. He shows this beautifully through a very modern film noir, he spoils us with beautiful directing. The film is dark, but it is so incredibly Boyle, why wouldn’t it be? Alongside the
labyrinthine plot and the screeching score, the filming just gives you an even bigger headache. But a nice headache, I suppose (if that even exists).
The film is good, if I haven’t put you off it already, I recommend that you go and see it. The attention to detail will balance out some of the negatives when I watch it for a 2nd time, whether that is in the near future or not, I can’t tell. If you look for character developments in films, this may not be the best for you. There is also a clear link between the film and the particular Goya painting, however, that is my art side kicking in and is a different explanation for a different time, I will not bore you with it. The film is a bit like being given a book in pieces, and having to figure out which chapter goes where with only Danny Boyle bearing the full book, then realising that your copy is missing some pages, and is torn around the edges. (Maybe I didn’t explain that well, we aren’t all as good as analogies as Patrick Swayze or Seal). Trance definitely won’t sit up there with Danny Boyle’s classics, despite it being typically Boylean. It is a bit like he has back-tracked into his earlier days. I think this time he has just tried a bit too hard to shock and to impress, stick to your old stuff, My Boyle.