Now this is a hard one. This is one of the films that comes along every once in a while where it’s really hard for me to review. I’m getting ahead of myself though. I think it’s best to start off with my thoughts on Danny Boyle and, of course, I think he’s brilliant. Trainspotting, Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire are my personal favourites but you can’t really go wrong with any of his work and since the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, Boyle became one of the most important cultural icons of British history. His new film Trance is about as far away from the immense patriotism of the Olympic Opening Ceremony as possible, and it feels like he is having fun directing something again. Again, this is a hard film to review so there may be spoilers so I recommend watching Trance before reading my review.
The story of the film starts off really basic, in that it’s about a group of art thieves and one of them, played by James McAvoy, gets hit on the head and cannot remember where he put the painting. After torture doesn’t work, a hypnotherapist, played by Rosario Dawson, is hired to make him remember. Now this could easily become cliched and boring but Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge play it smarter. They use the hypnotherapy concept to play around with the idea of memory and how vulnerable people can be in regards to their memories and actions, kind of like Inception but directed by Derren Brown (who once got a person to ‘assassinate’ Stephen Fry), especially at the end of the film. There are also the different twists regarding the characters, which I won’t spoil here, but there are a few points in the film where the film completely changes direction from what you are expecting.
The characters are all great (of course I can’t give away too much) and this is helped by a great cast. James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel are all brilliant in the film. McAvoy does a great job going against type as Simon and I will not say more for fear of spoilers, needless to say, whatever you think about Simon at the start of the film will completely change by the end and it’s because of McAvoy that the character works. Cassel does a great job as Frank, being very threatening at the start of the film, but still really likable throughout the film, despite all of the awful stuff the character does. The standout though is Rosario Dawson who is incredible as Elizabeth, she comes across as really smart and trustworthy, which is why I completely bought how much trust Simon put into Elizabeth throughout the film but she manages to let the audience know about a different side to the character through her voice and body language, although the major point about her character comes through at the very end and, again, I don’t want to spoil the film. Aside from the major 3, the actors playing the other robbers all do a great job and help provide Boyle’s trademark black humour and there is a small but vital performance from Tuppence Middleton (the only person with a more British name than Benedict Cumberbatch) who carries on the acting strength she showed in Black Mirror: White Bear, even though the role is small. All in all, the cast is excellent.
The technical side of the film is incredible as usual for a Danny Boyle film. Of course Boyle’s direction and shot composition is incredible, especially in the scenes of the heist and there are a few moments where Boyle really makes the viewer wince when seeing what happens, anyone who watches the film will know exactly which point I’m talking about. There is also the brilliant way in which multiple scenes are combined together, creating a great sense of the memory problems faced by Simon in the film, especially by the end of the film. Outside of Boyle, the strength of the technical side has to go to Director of Photography Anthony Dod Mantle who does an incredible job with the look of the film with the garish colours from the start mixing well with the darker colours by the end of the film, reminding me of the different art styles evoked by McAvoy throughout the film.
Overall, Trance is a great film. I really wish I could say more about it but I do not want to spoil this film. If you have any inclination to see this film, or if you are a fan of Danny Boyle, you need to see this film as soon as possible, I can’t guarantee that it’ll be for everyone but I can say that you certainly won’t forget this film any time soon.
My Rating: 5/5