Written by Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Directed by Danny Boyle
Director Danny Boyle takes a step back into the realm of the psychological crime thriller for the first time since his debut film “Shallow Grave” with his newest film set in the world of art crime, Trance. The film is the feature adaptation of writer Joe Ahearne’s television film from 2001 of the same name, with frequent Boyle writing collaborator Hodge helping out with script of this version of the story. With a stellar trio leading the film the only question that remains is how effective it is?
Simon (McAvoy) is a fine art auctioneer who gets mixed up with a gang led by Franck (Cassel) looking to steal a painting. After the painting goes missing, Simon and Franck, along with Franck’s crew, join forces with hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Dawson) to recover their lost spoils. As boundaries between desire, reality and hypnotic suggestion begin to blur the stakes rise faster than anyone could have anticipated.
Trance features some excellent performances of an overcooked script that ultimately results in a decent yet flawed final product. The script starts off with elegantly simple and well explained art heist that is easy to follow with a great performance from McAvoy. After the heist goes wrong and Simon loses his memory, Simon goes for hypnotherapy from Dawson’s Elizabeth and the story slowly gets more erratic and out of control. The final act is a series of twists and turns that end up folding in on them, the center does not hold as decisions make less sense when more information comes to light. The actions of Dawson’s Elizabeth make the least sense of the 3, but she ultimately holds the fates of all of them in her hands.
The trio are all good here, McAvoy’s sly grin and charm work well in his portrayal of Simon, a character that always seems to be hiding something. Cassel is brilliant, as usual, as the Gang leader who despite his best efforts and often brutal methods attempting to extract information from Simon cannot help but be drawn into Elizabeth’s sensual web. Dawson’s performance is bold, uninhibited and seductive. She fearlessly gives everything to the role and is quite frankly the main reason the film actually works in the end.
The film has a slick visual style and sensibility that enhances the performances as well. With Boyle working with another frequent collaborator, Academy Award winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, behind the camera and production manager Mark Tildesley setting the stage, even a regular apartment takes on a unique and effective look.
The film’s great performances and visual style are enough to elevate the film above the overly convoluted script, but only just. But Dawson and Cassel have a strong chemistry and McAvoy is more than decent in a difficult role which is enough for the film to get a pass. Trance is a mild recommend.
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