Trance Blu-ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

trance-bluray-coverTrance

Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson

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.

trancecb3Trance 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.

trance-1Till Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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The Waiting Room Review (Kirk Haviland)

waiting room banner

The Waiting Room

Directed by Peter Nicks

Today (Friday, Jan 18), the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema begins an exclusive run of another of its 2012 festival favorites, The Waiting Room. When the shortlist of documentaries up for nomination for this year’s Academy Awards was released back in early December, director Peter Nicks found his film among the contenders. And even though it did not make the cut the film was in the mix for a reason, the day in the life of a U.S. hospital is an impactful and insightful piece of film making.

The Waiting Room is a riveting day in the life of an Oakland, California, public hospital’s overtaxed emergency room.  The purely observational character-driven documentary expertly weaves the stories of several patients, most of them are uninsured, and who come to the inner-city facility because they have nowhere else to go. Director Nicks is afforded extraordinary access to patients and caregivers that allows him to paint a vivid picture of the decaying state of America’s health care system, something most Canadians know little about. A ballsy nurse, an anxious father, a drugged out serial patient and a small group of other memorable characters are engaging and draw you in with their stories as the system may be the only real ‘bad guy’ in these circumstances. The narrative is driven by the interactions as there is little structuring and interpretations beyond just that.

waiting room 1

The film is filled with static shots of patients anxiously waiting interspersed with time lapse photography to emphasize the ebb and flow of the waiting room, while conversely showing that many people never move as they wait hours for a little help. The one sequence that may be the most powerful is when the camera is an observer in a room as a patient flatlines. There is no swelling score like in ‘ER’ or ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, just the sound of machines, shuffling doctors and nurses and the sullen look of desperate onlookers unable to help as the patient slowly slips away. What’s left is a body covered in a sheet, as a toe tag is applied and a pile of red stained bandages sit in a pool of blood on the floor, a grim reminder that an emergency room is also a place of death as well as life.

waiting room 2

The most fascinating aspect of Waiting Room for Canadians is likely the checkout procedure when patients have to decide how they will settle their accounts. For most in this documentary, those without insurance, this practice is similar to asking a bank for money or taking out a loan on a new vehicle. Patients try to barter and plead their way to discounts and reduced fees as the duty nurses discuss payment plans and other options. The line of cubicles devoted to this task as patients leave is a startling reminder to those Canadians who may complain about the system north of the border, this is much, much worse than you’ll ever see up here.

Highland Hospital

Director Nicks’ first feature film is a winner. His low rent, almost guerrilla style of documenting that allows the people and the camera to do the narrative work gives the final result a little more grit and energy than forcing a voiceover or narrative would have allowed. By using very minimal voice over and what is used is only from the people involved, there is no narration here, the flow and concept of the film stays focused and engaging. The Waiting Room is a recommend.

For more info show times visit the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Online Schedule.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

Follow me directly on twitter @moviejunkieto and by liking my Facebook page at Movie Junkie TO

Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

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