Far-fetched but very enjoyable thriller.
I suppose the first thing we need to point out is that Danny Boyle's latest film, Trance, is not shooting for documentarian levels of gritty realism. In fact, it tests the elasticity of suspension of disbelief rather heavily, probably too heavily for some. Here, hypnotherapy might as well be called 'magic', and we see a welcome return of the "bashed on head = amnesia" trope that I thought had been parodied out of existence. I now hope for a recurrence of the tramp seeing something weird, doing a double take and lobbing a half filled bottle of liquor away.
Eh, but that's a rather poor place to start a review, so let's reboot this like a comic book franchise. Trance sees auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) running us through his knowledge of the security protocols for removing particularly valuable paintings, or as shall call them for the remainder of the review, McGuffins, from the premises in case of robbery. These details would prove useful for Franck (Vincent Cassel), what with him and his gang about to rob Simon's auction house and all. As part of the heist Simon takes a bash to the head, mentioned earlier, and Franck gets away with the bag-o-art.
Except the bag turns out to be a bag-o-empty, as it seems Simon's managed to pull a rope a dope, the ol' switcheroo, the Cincinnati hot dog, the Cuban Sandwich, the Earl Gray Bergamot Experience. Franck is none too pleased, and visits Simon to find out the location of their beloved McGuffin, which, it soon becomes apparent, Simon had been helping Franck's gang steal. Sadly, the knock to the noggin has surgically removed Simon's memory of where he stashed the painting.
Franck suspects Simon's playing silly buggers, but after torture doesn't jog his memory, a somewhat desperate Franck points Simon in the direction of Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson)'s hypnotherapy studio, in the hopes of unblocking Simon's mind tubes like a mind plumber with a mind plunger.
Now, Trance is the sort of film where knowing a great deal about the storyline before going into it can only be to your detriment, so I shall go into no further depth on the plot, which all ought to be familiar to those who have seen the trailer. The one other aspect the trailer brings up, which forms the basis of the ongoing and increasing mind screw of the film, is that Simon soon no longer knows who to trust, and having a paranoid, possibly delusional loose cannon in the middle of your heist plan isn't a good situation for anyone to be in.
Now, I quite enjoyed Trance, but you do have to give it some leeway. In particular, Elizabeth's hypnotherapy is able to do whatever the plot demands of it no matter how unlikely, which is rather convenient. The final reveal of what, by the end, had become a likably convoluted mess, is the sort of thing that less competently made films would have me snorting in derision at. I refer the honourable audience to Welcome to the Punch.
However, Trance is more than competently made, as you'd probably expect from Danny Boyle. It's slick and stylish and does a reasonable job of doling out developments and twists to maintain interest. It doesn't however have quite the punch that you may be expecting, especially in the final reels where it really feels as though it should be picking up the pace, instead content to mosey along at a comfortable stroll. It's never dull, but it does feel overly restrained for it's own good.
The leads all perform well in their roles, especially as things really unfold and unravel towards the end, although there's no standout-brilliant turn amongst them. And to be honest, you can apply that general precept to everything in the movie. It's all good, without being excellent.
Which is a little frustrating, to be honest. While Trance is still one of the more enjoyable and well put together films of 2013 so far, it feels as though it has the potential to hang together just a little better and be really great, rather than really good. That said, perhaps I'm looking at this gift horse in the mouth a little too closely. Really good is good enough for me.
Rosario Dawson (Elizabeth)
Vincent Cassel (Franck)