April 14, 2013

Movie Review: 'Trance' plays with mind, not heart

By ROGER MOORE, McClatchy Newspapers

The heist picture gets a few Danny Boyle head-game twists with "Trance," a movie about memory, the mind and manipulating both to find some "lost" stolen art.

click image to enlarge

Vincent Cassel in a scene from “Trance.”

Fox Searchlight Pictures

REVIEW

"TRANCE," starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel. Directed by Danny Boyle. Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images and language. Running time: 1:41

James McAvoy is Simon, trusted employee of a London auction house. On the day they put Goya's "Witches in the Air" under the gavel, thieves attack. But Simon is on the case -- following company protocol to safeguard the priceless ($25 million to $50 million) painting.

Only he didn't. And when he took a conk to the head as the robbery went down, he lost his memory of where he stashed it.

That has the gang led by Franck (Vincent Cassel) in a tizzy. They're tearing up his apartment, tracking him down. And when enhanced interrogation methods don't help, they turn to a hypnotherapist.

"Whatever's in his head, she can find it," they say. "She" is Elizabeth, who usually helps people forget to smoke or remember where they put their car keys. Here, without knowing Simon's real purpose, she sets to work -- quietly, mesmerizingly putting him in a trance.

The toughest secrets we keep, she purrs, are those "we're keeping from ourselves."

"Trance" has a pulsing energy to it during the heist and its aftermath, switching to something more serene and meditative as Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) tries to unlock Simon's secrets, and figure out what those secrets really are.

Boyle, working from a script by "Doctor Who" vet Joe Ahearne and regular collaborator John Hodge ("Trainspotting," "The Beach"), teases out the mystery and stages vivid flashbacks that we have to reason out because some are clues, and some aren't -- such as how Simon came to be involved in the caper, connections between the various characters, and the shifting motives and allegiances of one and all.

Cassel, a villain's villain in the French films about the bank robber Mesrine, turns up the menace and the charm, making Franck a not-unreasonable guy who can be the very height of unreasonable when he's crossed.

McAvoy is not at his best here. I had a hard time believing anything he did or said, mainly because of his blase reactions to the fingernail-pulling torture that the character endures early on. Seriously, that smarts, and you get little sense of that from him.

But Dawson ("Sin City," "Unstoppable") gets her best role in years as Elizabeth, despite having the water-carrying job of explaining hypnosis, the mind and her methods to the mobsters (and the audience). She adds a sex appeal and mystery to this plainly damaged woman caught up in a dangerous game.

For all its plot trickery, mind science and relationship square dancing, "Trance" doesn't have the emotional tug or technical pizazz of Boyle's best films -- "Slumdog Millionaire," "Trainspotting" or "127 Hours." It feels more like a technical stunt, but one he pulls off with his usual panache, if not his usual heart.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)


 

Blogs

More PPH Blogs