5.5 Overall Score
Characters: 8/10
Plot: 4/10
Appeal: 4/10

An excellent score and dazzling visuals complement a strong cast.

The film is far too convoluted, the story is poorly executed, and the lasting appeal is elsewhere.

I love movies that make the viewer think. There isn’t anything better than leaving the theater asking questions, making inferences based on the images on screen, and eagerly awaiting a re-watch to see if what was inferred matches up with the cinematic results. When first seeing previews for Trance, I immediately categorized it along with films like Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Inception – psychological thrillers that are fueled by the power of the human mind and grandiose storytelling. However, while Trance is pulled along by its magnetic cast, superb visuals, and stunning score, by its end the film becomes a very jumbled and thoughtful mess.

Trance - Promo 1As if chugging along without anything to lose, the expository nature of Danny Boyle’s Trance, his follow-up to 2010’s uplifting adventure flick 127 Hours and the wacky opening to the 2012 Summer Olympics, is immensely intriguing. The story circles around an art thief, played by Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Ocean’s Thirteen), who, along with his three partners, attempts to steal a £20 million painting. James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class, Wanted) plays the unreliable lead, an art auctioneer who can’t seem to remember where he placed the work of art after trying to prevent the thieves from getting away with it. However, the real twist in the story comes when a hypnotist, played by Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Seven Pounds), comes into the picture – and no, that pun was not intended. She attempts to hypnotize McAvoy in order to jump-start his mind in to remembering where he placed the painting. It would be an obvious giveaway to describe the plot from this point on, so all I’ll say is that the outcome of events really messes with the mind.

The more psychological elements of the film are exceedingly captivating, especially as the film traces back the events of the story to a much more extensive background than what Trance presents at its ground level. It’s a twisty, curvy road as the few characters interact and struggle with their own suggestibility. They say that “only five percent of the population is extremely suggestible,” so it’s quite the coincidence that the central figures in the film are so easily hypnotized. It’s also a coincidence, in fact, a bit of a shame, that the relationships between Dawson, McAvoy, and Cassel become so complex. This mind-busting convolution eventually leads to a completely unnecessary full-frontal nude display of Dawson – an image that comes off as more distracting that integral.

Trance - Promo 2The other shame is that throughout its second half, Trance is more of a misdirected medley of art-house cinema than a brainy thriller. It’s still definitely a thriller, and both the main characters’ powerful performances and the illusionary audiovisual intensity assure this. Sadly, though, the exposition and story falls flat on its face. Not only is it confusing for the audience, as is any movie that attempts to tell a story without much actually happening in the present, but the film also comes off as lazy. The writing is forgettable and the actual story, despite being captivating for the first bit, leaves nothing left for the viewer to explore afterwards. Everything is displayed in a manner that is straightforward in a singular sense, but is put together in a topsy-turvy way that says, “Look at how clever this is.” The story is one that, at face value, keeps the audience invested for most of its run-time, but lacks lasting appeal. Movies like Memento and Inception have stood the test of time because of how keen their sense of storytelling can be, and how their scripts leave thought-provoking questions. If Trance is keen or meticulous at all, it’s displayed in a very cluttered, confined manner.

While the astounding cast and mesmerizing visuals give Trance its vibe, the plot is what gives it its drive. And for the most part, the gear is shifted into overdrive – to the point where everything is flying so fast towards the viewer that any sort of brainy articulation leaves him or her wondering what’s important and what’s aimless. Despite giving the idea that it would be an excellent film to sit alongside Christopher Nolan’s bold catalogue or Charlie Kaufman’s residually clever scripts, Boyle’s Trance is poorly executed. All of the film’s elements are solid in reality. However, the real fuel-to-the-fire is what’s found inside the oft-inaccurate and fantastical human mind, and the contents of Trance’s skewed interior make for a spellbinding, yet confusing, terminable, and uninspiring work of art.


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Author: Tim Dodderidge View all posts by
I'm a student at the University of Kansas hoping to major in journalism. I love Christopher Nolan films, eating at Taco Bell, and playing indoor soccer. I also like to watch How I Met Your Mother and enjoy writing poetry.

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