Trance

Trance | Film Review | SHELF HEROES

Visually stylistic but superficial psychological crime thriller centred around an art heist. Young auctioneer's assistant Simon (James McAvoy) aids a gang of thieves led by Frank (Vincent Cassel) to steal a Goya painting just sold by his auction house for £25m. A blow to the head during the plan causes partial amnesia and he fails to remember where he concealed the artwork while escaping. After withstanding Frank’s brutal torture the gang eventually buy his story – and contact a Harley Street hypnotist, Dr Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to help him recall its location. In trying to assist Simon, Elizabeth unravels a dark world of confusion and deceit locked in his head, leaving him with no grasp on his reality.

Despite a strong opening that hints at a rollicking criminal caper, it falters and miscues for much of the first hour, losing all the momentum initially created. The mystery of the vanished painting isn’t particularly compelling and fades in significance as the film wraps itself in Simon’s twisted, layered psyche. The cast of characters are uniformly untrustworthy and not notably likeable so without a strong driving narrative it's difficult to invest much in them – especially as they’re all fairly flat - and for much of ‘Trance’ the events taking place aren’t sufficiently engaging either. However, well shot and put together, it almost conjures up enough pleasure to override this. Drawing an unusual stylistic portrait of modern London that parallels slick glass apartments with grimy clubs and back alleys – tinted with a recurring palette of orange, blue and red alongside frequent nods to classic noir – it’s an enjoyable world to be swept up in. A pounding electronic soundtrack culled straight from the 90s does much to keep things exhilarating and moving along – totally over the top, the intense music is frequently more interesting than the action on screen. The mysteries and unknowns should make every frame riveting: however, the film shifts around and ties so many knots keeping up becomes tiresome, and solving the various riddles feels futile.

When ‘Trance’ eventually kicks into gear in the final third it atones for an entirely forgettable start, shaping itself into a ludicrous, violent, dark ride - a tonal shift that isn’t really in keeping but at least some ‘stuff’ is happening. Utterly implausible and verging on unfathomable, it ramps up the sex, violence and deceit beyond belief – seemingly pleased to leave the plot to one side and simply have some gratuitous visceral fun. A chaotic mess that just about hangs together, it still has enough shallow pleasures to leave you satisfied – if a little baffled as to what the hell you just watched.

★★★

[ 2013 — Dir: Danny Boyle — 101 mins — 15 cert — IMDb ]

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