Written by Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Directed by Danny Boyle
New to Blu-ray is the latest film from Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle that marks his first step back into the realm of the psychological crime thriller since his debut film “Shallow Grave”, “Trance”. The film is the feature adaptation of writer Joe Ahearne’s television film from 2001 of the same name and features a stellar trio of actors leading the small ensemble set in the high stakes world of art thievery.
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 that plays out slightly better on a second home viewing but ultimately still falls flat. 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 overlaps and contradicts each other that is set up in the premise of a spider’s web unraveling, yet plays out like the entire web collapsing on top of it. 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.
McAvoy’s sly grin and charm lose impact and believability on second viewing, his Simon is a character that always seems to be hiding something yet is never convincing enough as a foil for Cassel’s Frank. 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. It’s Dawson’s performance that gains the most from the second viewing as the nuances and reactions she use fit into the story much better. The film has a slick visual style and sensibility that enhances the performances as well. With Boyle working with 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 Blu-ray comes equipped with a fascinating retrospective of Danny Boyle’s films under the Fox Searchlight banner, with Boyle talking about his thoughts one each film from “A Life Less Ordinary” up to Trance. We get a handful of throwaway deleted scenes that explain/expound on nothing from the main film and short film and theatrical trailer. Finally there is a four part feature on the making of Trance itself.
The film’s performances and visual style aren’t enough to elevate the film above the overly convoluted script on a repeat viewing. But Dawson and Cassel have a strong chemistry that shines; it’s McAvoy who’s the real miss here. Despite the film’s merits it still manages to fall just short of a recommend.
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