Nov 11, 2013

[Movies] Trance (2013)

I can't necessarily say that I'm a Danny Boyle fan, although it does seem inevitable that I'm bound to watch his movies sooner or later. He's one of those known directors that always get a decent amount of notice among movie critics circles. And it's not that his movies are bad or anything - it's just that a lot of times the stories don't quite seem like something that I would watch.

This particular movie involves James McAvoy, which was certainly a major draw for me in this case. His career remains a rather interesting one and it looks like he puts some thought into the types of movies that he gets involved in. So I'd like to put a little trust into his choices - or at least those of his agent, depending how how he manages such business arrangements.

I didn't know much about this movie before watching it, but I was certainly impressed once things started unfolding. While it is by no means perfect, it still had a fairly compelling story supported by a rather interesting cast of talented actors and actresses.

Synopsis: Trance is a 2013 British psychological thriller movie directed by Danny Boyle with a screenplay by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge

We first meet Simon (James McAvoy), and it appears that he has suddenly gotten involved in an attempt to steal a painting from the auction house where he works. But when the heist goes down, he attacks his colleague, Franck (Vincent Cassel) when he tries to take the painting from him and Franck in turn knocks him out with his gun. He leaves with the painting but once he gets back to a secure location, he discovers that the picture frame is empty and the painting is gone. Simon on the other hand is suffering from amnesia after his blow to the head.

Given they're unable to get the information regarding the painting's whereabouts from the amnesiac Simon, they end up taking him to hypnotist in order to somehow restore his memory. They randomly end up with a woman named Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) with the initial story of asking for her help in finding a lost set of keys. She eventually figures out that the sessions are being recorded in secret by Franck and the team and they eventually agree to work together to restore Simon's memory.

The plot is a little tricky, but then that's to be expected from a Danny Boyle project, I feel. He likes narratives like this that involve a fair number of twists and turns and various characters that you can't define under the simplistic categories of good guys and bad guys. Like a good noir caper, everyone is gray in one way or another and it becomes difficult to determine which character you might want to root for.

I have mixed feelings about Rosario Dawson's portrayal of the hypnotist. I can surmise that she was going for this cool, calm, collected sort of character but at times it leaves her seeming a little cold. There are even moments when I can't help but feel that she's being a bit of a psychopath in total disconnect from her core emotions and that worries me a lot in terms of what we're supposed to get from her as members of the audience. It's not outright bad - just a little confusing / unsettling at times.

James McAvoy was pretty interesting as the mostly confused Simon. And naturally the process of hypnosis that he undergoes slowly reveals more and more about his character as a whole and not just specifically tied to the missing painting. It's an interesting plot device to use in order to provide more back story to a character, and one that worked out rather well for the movie.

Given the element of exploring Simon's mind through hypnosis, there was the natural fear that we'd end up with some sort of an Inception-style story. But thankfully we didn't go into that sort of mind-bending, special effects filled acid trip. Instead we focused on exploring different situations and his relationships with other people in order to determine where the missing painting was stowed away. Of course the various techniques and strategies that Elizabeth include a few items of questionable morals. But that's all part of the plot and the eventual fun.

The final plot twist at the end was still a bit of a surprise, actually, and I say this despite how I typically unravel stories ahead of the curve. And it wasn't a far-fetched one either. It still made a lot of sense and helped tie the entire movie together. Thus even seemingly random elements that had been introduced into the narrative turned out to be useful and relevant in the long run.

Trance is a compelling, complex psychological thriller that I enjoyed a lot. Some might think that it's a bit too complicated bordering on being annoyingly clever, but on the whole it's still a good story. Thus Trance gets 4 quirky stories that Elizabeth hypnotizes Simon into believing out of a possible 5.

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