Trance - Blu-ray Review

'Boyle sinks further and further into style over substance as the violence, nudity and sexual scenes are ramped up, presumably in an attempt keep the interest of those who haven’t the foggiest what’s going on.'

Despite its strong central performance from the increasingly impressive James Franco, the main issue I had with Danny Boyle’s last film, 127 Hours, was that it felt as though the director had frenetically taken stylistic influence from his back catalogue without ever reaching the heights of his most successful previous work. It was a film that was essentially noticeably less than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately, whilst Trance is in many ways a very different film to 127 Hours, watching it I felt myself coming to a frustratingly similar conclusion.

The cast here do well, with James McAvoy as amnesiac auctioneer Simon Newton in over his head with medium-time crime boss Franck (Vincent Cassel) impressing more here than he has in any other lead role I’ve yet seen him in. Cassel never feels challenged, but the actor crafts what he can from a character who ends up disappointingly underwritten. Rosario Dawson as Simon’s hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb arguably gives the film's strongest performance carrying off for the most part the necessary enigma and intrigue of her role.

Boyle as director does make some skilful artistic choices, with effective use of light and colour throughout making Trance regularly a pleasing film to look at. The score by Rick Smith - one half of electronic music duo Underworld who worked so successfully with Boyle on his London 2012 opening ceremony - here feels somewhat flat however and too much like Trance has aspirations to another recent crime thriller, Drive; aspirations it never comes close to achieving.

The biggest problem with Trance is, at first glance, its story. As matters wear on, however, the problem is not the story itself but the way in which Boyle chooses to tell it. The opening act is pretty average stuff, with the first ten minutes feeling somewhat rushed leaving the next half an hour dragging a little. We see Elizabeth performing all sorts of hypnosis techniques on not only Simon but also Franck and his one-dimensional criminal entourage for some fairly unconvincing reasons. Their main function seems to be to give Boyle a chance to try his hand at some Inception-inspired dream sequences that never impress nearly as much as those in Nolan’s film.

However, it’s as we venture into Trance’s second act that the narrative begins to relentlessly twist, turn and overlap not only on itself but also seemingly between reality and fantasy. It’s a choice which Boyle announces in gripping fashion through a psychological twist as Simon first regains some of his memory, but unfortunately one the director cannot sustain. The film’s story becomes more and more impenetrable and knotty to the point that many will surely give up on trying to follow what happened when, let alone whether it actually happened at all. Boyle sinks further and further into style over substance as the violence, nudity and sexual scenes are ramped up, presumably in an attempt keep the interest of those who haven’t the foggiest what’s going on.

Cerebral punishment aside, I did find myself wanting to watch to the end of Trance to find out how the story wraps up. Whilst the climax does at least provide a resolution which makes sense, it also confirms the vacuousness of the second act’s mental labyrinth. Moreover, it solidifies the morally empty core of Boyle’s film and its trio of main characters. Whilst at least one of the three has some justification for their actions, nobody here ends up as a particularly nice person, leaving the film’s conclusion feeling decidedly unsatisfying with a bitter aftertaste. Trance winds up as something of a hypnotic, dreamlike experience in itself: compelling whilst it’s happening even if you don’t understand it all, but there’s little of substance to take with you after you return to reality.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment