Although most of the flaws can be overlooked, Trance comes up shy of something truly great because it ultimately becomes too contrived to simply overlook.
Famed director Danny Boyle reverts back to more edgy form with Trance after recently holding the title artistic director of the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics. Boyle reunites with co-writer John Hodge for the first time since The Beach, however, Trance contains a mind trip plot that is more similar to a different Leonardo DiCaprio film, Inception. Both films deal with extracting information from the subconscious, but instead of blurring the line between reality and dreams like in Inception, Trance puts its characters (and audience) under the mental state of hypnosis. Unfortunately, the line the film without a doubt straddles is between greatness and atrocious as the final act weakens everything that comes before it.
Trance opens at a heart-pumping pace when a London art auction employee named Simon (James McAvoy) describes the procedure they must follow in the event of an attempt of robbery. This is an obvious foreshadow to what is about to happen in the next scene. Just as the auction for Francisco Goya’s “Wiches in the Air” reaches 30 million dollars, Franck (Vincent Cassel) and his gang bust in the room with smoke bombs and shotguns in hand.
Simon remains remarkably calm and follows the procedure he just got done explaining during the voiceover at the beginning. However, just as he is about to secure the painting down the emergency chute, Franck smacks him with the butt of his gun. The robbers manage to get away with the painting only to realize a short while later that the actual canvas is missing and they only have the frame of the painting. Suspecting that Simon had something to do with the mix up, Franck hires a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) to dive into Simon’s subconscious in order to figure out where he hid the painting.
All of this happens within the first ten minutes and barely scratches the surface of all the different directions the film ends up going. What starts as a rather standard heist film quickly morphs into a psychological thriller. As more and more of the story unfolds it forces you into thinking that any one of the three main characters controls the power—which is what makes the experience so enjoyable. And for the majority of the runtime Trance is one hell of a ride.
Alongside his familiar cinematography collaborator Anthony Dod Mantle, Danny Boyle creates a patchwork of carefully shot and edited scenes that play mental head games of déjà vu for the viewer. The visuals are wonderfully paired with the narrative like a glass of red wine and a juicy steak. Trance employs some amazing techniques to visually achieve a subconscious view of Simon’s mind through the use of reflections, titled camera angles, vibrant colors, and precise focusing in conjunction with a pulsating score.
But things go awry in the final 20 minutes of the film. Even though there were some minor plausibility issues from the start, the ending is downright ridiculous and feels cheap. The first two acts put on a brilliant demonstration of storytelling and visual effects only for the whole production to completely stall out in the final act. Events transpire that I would expect from the Fast and Furious franchise that end up undermining the cleverness Trance began with. Even the music takes a huge departure from the moody atmospheric beats that fill most of the film to an almost upbeat and cheery sound by the end.
Although most of the flaws can be overlooked, Trance comes up shy of something truly great because it ultimately becomes too contrived to simply overlook. The ending wraps the plotlines up far too neatly for the audience by answering almost all of the mysterious that made it interesting. Unfortunately, the whole film is affected by the zany third act, but if you can manage to overlook that, Trance can be a nifty thriller that is entertaining enough to seek out.