Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: Trance

Copyright: Fox Searchlight Pictures
For the last two decades, Danny Boyle delivered interesting, intriguing and most importantly, untypical movies that are firmly and clearly set in one or another movie genre. This time around he delivered a compact psychological thriller that is, underneath the surface, a potent drama.

Trance has only one movie device: hypnosis. After a botched robbery of a Rembrandt painting, Elizabeth, a hypnotherapist gets an opportunity form a small criminal gang to use her skill to unlock memories in their inside man; his name is Simon, and he somehow, after getting hit in the head, managed to hide this incredibly valuable piece of art. Because of the concussion, his memory is gone, but Frank, the organizer of the robbery, believes Elizabeth can change that. Acting as an unwilling team, they have the task to find the missing painting.

I love the way Boyle demonstrates his ability to unseeingly focus a convoluted story. He doesn't use plot twists, but instead guides the story from one narration node to another. In the duration of the movie, he visits the same nodes, changing the perspective and shedding more light with every pass. By doing this, Boyle unveils more and more of the story, allowing it to evolve alongside his characters. In some aspect, the character development reminded me of Steven Soderbergh's The Limey, because both movies take their time with revelations, while simultaneously putting the main protagonist in a whirlwind of actions and decisions.

Another important aspect of the film is the idea that memories play multiple roles, from protective mechanism, hidden treasure maps and transgressions that were buried into the subconsciousness, to a much greater base that determines Simon's sense of identity. Here, Boyle also elegantly steers clear of too much science and the need to overexplain anything.

His cast was an important ally in this process. Vincent Cassel impressively plays a criminal leader that wasn't given too much onscreen time, but still depicts his character just right, avoiding every cliché trait. James McAvoy, who I'm not terribly fond of also does a decent job, especially last third of the film (although in the finish sequence he tries a bit too hard), but Rosario Dawson is the main attraction as Elizabeth. In the role, Dawson displayed a huge variety, sometimes playing the dominant figure, and then other times effortlessly fading in the background. Also, her character is the mechanism that allows the film to morph into an impacting personal drama, and shed its thriller skin.

I see that Trance is often compared with Inception, but for me, the similarities are only superficial - both movies dabble in the worlds of subconsciousness, but for me, Danny Boyle's film presents a less spectacular, but a deeper, personal story.