Friday, March 29, 2013

Trance Review

Its his first film since the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, the premise: Simon (James McAvoy), a seemingly amnesic art auctioneer consults the help of Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to find a stolen painting after getting involved with a group of criminals led by Franck (Vincent Cassel). However this proves harder than expected as he is forced to delve deeper into himself, revealing that not everything is as it seems.

Fast-paced and energetic, Trance grabbed my attention from the start. Its slick, bold and at times a little disorienting. I was immersed the whole way through, drawn by the kinetic nature of the plot, constantly questioning the directions in which the film kept twisting and turning, and ultimately rewarded by a satisfyingly detailed and unexpected ending, one that I could never have seen coming. However, its still hard to decide how exactly I feel about it, now that the initial feeling of bewilderment has passed.

Stylistically, it was great. The trance-like feel about the film itself befits it's name, the way the characters and their surroundings are constantly highlighted by the bold hues of neon oranges and electric blues that pulse through the film. The lighting casts itself upon the characters and cuts them in half, fragments them and then pulls them back. London feels small and cage-like, the veins of the city glowing red. Neoteric apartments are claustrophobic, dark, with glowing corridors that loom, highlighting silhouettes. Eye candy? Yes. And the plot does manage to hold it's own too, though it should come as no surprise that the main premise of the missing painting is the film's major Mcguffin. There is much more to this story than you're first led to believe, and it becomes more about the characters and their motives as you're left with more and more questions, making it less of a heist movie and more of a mentally stimulating thriller.

As an audience, we are constantly at the mercy of Simon's memories and mind, as we are only gradually shown the fragments of the surreal complexity of our characters' stories, extracted by means of hypnotic head trips delivered by elegant and authoritative hypnotherapist Elizabeth. We share in the confusion of the hallucinatory mind games, discovering the darker, more sinister secrets to be found within the three main characters. I thought the three leads were all on top form, McAvoy managed to pull off charming and helpless with a sinister and brutal edge as Simon, and Cassel was great as usual, bringing a touch of sharpness to it all. However I was particularly drawn by Rosario Dawson, mainly because I found her character to be so enigmatic. Much like with the rest of the film, you're left feeling that there's something about Elizabeth you don't know. Her position within the narrative appears to switch on occasion, though ultimately she is always ahead of the game, the femme fatale of Boyle's hard-boiled contemporary thrill ride.

Overall I was really impressed by this film, and did enjoy it. However, clever though it was, Trance has failed to properly leave a mark in my mind the way something like Nolan's Memento did. Its not a matter of style over substance, more that I just thought it lacked depth and weight enough to really keep me thinking too hard about it once it was over. There was nothing in it that really stuck with me long enough to keep me wondering after the initial 'Woah' feeling had gone. I don't think it's Boyle's best film, though it definitely was enjoyable if a little hollow. If nothing else, his distinctive visual style, the fast-paced first half and climactic ending will stick with you, even if its hard at first to put your finger on where you stand with the rest. Plus, it easily surpasses much of what else is out in cinemas at the moment so I'd definitely recommend giving it a watch.