Sunday, April 14, 2013



Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Joe Ahearne & John Hodge

     Danny Boyle is no stranger to highly kinetic packed films with mesmerizing cinematography and intense music. His latest effort Trance nails the lensing and music down but tends to become saturated in its attempts at being too clever. That is not to say I did not enjoy the multiple, and I mean multiple plot twists and turns, the graphic nature of its violence and the flat out fact that Danny Boyle is an extremely talented director. It just got to a point where all those twists caused the story to become a confusing, tension-less noir that's overall energy and visuals kept it from being a total misfire by Boyle.
     Simon (James McAvoy) is a fine art auctioneer who is in the depths of a gambling addiction and debt. He meets up with Franck (Vincent Cassell) who pays his debts but in return wants Simon to help him steal an expensive Goya painting. Simon is stealing the painting with ulterior motives and Franck catches him and clubs him on the head causing Simon to forget where he has put the painting. They use Elizabeth, a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson), to dig out Simon's amnesia and find the location of the painting. There, our story is set. A good premise with an outstanding opening sequence where Simon explains the intricate machinations of the proper heist. The energy, story and visuals are all there and my attention was in full swing, but as this story begins to unravel it loses its potency with an amalgamation of too many genres and left me with a feeling of being let down because the end result is unsatisfactory and felt as if it was a "I wasted my time" moment.
     The film is a neo noir but does not hold any of smooth flow that Boyle's first noir film Shallow Grave (1994)contained. That is a great film. Instead of making a plot that is simple, but devious, he has made one that attempts to change the range and level of the story one too many times. It is dark, Boyle does not shy away from a view moments of gruesome violence and torture, moody and full of twists, and has a female with possible intentions of her own, but is too muddled. It also goes from a heist film to a revenge actioner to a psychosexual thriller with an ever so nude shot of Elizabeth that holds key plot points but feels out of place, to a dreamlike mystery that is void of any tension and focus. The script by Hodge, who worked with Boyle on Shallow Grave and Trainspotting (1996), and Ahearne needed to have a punch at the end that did not dive right into the maelstrom of being way too clever for its own good. I understand everything that happened by the end of the film but was too annoyed and exhausted to care. There were too many elements and genres that drove what started as a good story into being a mediocre, if not frustrating film.
     Cassell is great in the film. He almost toned down his ability to be sinister and truly unaffectionate while still being an evil mob like figure, but the real standout is Dawson. She shows a great deal of range and not because of the nudity. She holds her own and brings forth strength and despair that can be understood after seeing the film. McAvoy is pleasurable as always and simplistic, but his character really becomes frustrating as the film unravels. Another point is that I do not want to give away too many scenes or plot points because it is much better seeing it knowing as little as possible. Anthony Dod Mantle's lensing is has beautiful as always and his shots of these swanky, excessive flats are full of mirrors and neon lights that reflect reds and multiple images of different characters that lead to the varying levels of each characters intentions and motivations. Rick Smith's score is fast paced, upbeat and flows with the actions of the film without standing outside of the narrative.
     Danny Boyle is a fantastic director and can use stylistic photography and music like no other, but is in a bit of a slump right now. His last three efforts, the boring, feel good Slumdog Millionaire (2008), the one man going to a lose an arm film 127 Hours (2010) and Trance show his joy of tackling different genres but with limited focus. Some of this may be due to the fact he directed the London Summer Olympics ceremonies and his theatre obligations, but he has not knocked a film out of the park in a while. Really since the underrated sci-fi film Sunshine (2007). He is unbelievably talented and hopefully will find that mix of energy and storytelling that he did with his great earlier films Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, but with Trance his attempt at a stylish neo noir just left me with a feeling of too much mixing of genre without the pay off and storytelling to keep up with the energy. Multiple viewings would help though, but my initial reaction is highly mixed.

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