Following the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, Danny Boyle was hailed as a national treasure. With Trance, he reminds us that he is, in fact, a slick (sometimes dirty) moviemaker.
With the proliferation of crime thrillers and mysteries on television, it’s hard to make a good puzzle movie these days. It’s not that the scope of cinema doesn’t lend itself well to a whodunit (or in this case, a wheredunit); it’s just that the story has to completely wow you in such a big way that it could eclipse any television storyline.
Every piece of the jigsaw has to fall into place so beautifully that you leave the cinema speechless, enthralled and excited by the journey you’ve just been taken on. Danny Boyle takes on this challenge with his newest film Trance; a neo-noir dramatic thriller which he filmed alongside working on the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
Trance follows Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer who loses his memory whilst double-crossing the team of thieves he has been working with to steal a famous painting (as you do). The team, unsurprisingly, come a-knocking and Simon finds himself undertaking hypnotherapy to remember where he stashed the stolen painting.
McAvoy is his standard excellent self, bringing empathy to a character that could easily be disliked. Heading up the ‘bad guys’, Vincent Cassell seems a little lost here. A usual strong performer, he is normally a stand out. In this, his screen presence is almost eclipsed by the dizzy-narrative and style.
Hypnotist Rosario Dawson is a strong second-lead whose performance rounds a character that could fall a little flat in other hands. Some critics will question whether the story merits some of her scenes or if these are just gratuitous, but Boyle’s repetition in this area show he obviously felt they were integral to the piece.
Watching Trance was highly enjoyable. I was intrigued, constantly trying to work out where it was going and was truly excited by the stylised hypnosis and brilliantly shot scenes. This is a very slick looking movie; Boyle and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle obviously know what looks good on screen. No one could say they can’t do style.
Unfortunately, the storyline is just not as slick as the package it’s wrapped up in. To mix metaphors, the ride is a good one, but the ending leaves one wondering if it was at all worth it.
The revelation scene that should pull it all together is just one prolonged explanation that will leave anyone in the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ camp of storytelling throwing their popcorn in disgust. It doesn’t so much pull together the subtle clues that you might have spotted throughout the film, as bang you over the head with a sledgehammer of story that has barely even been hinted at. The exciting journey that you’ve just enjoyed suddenly turns into a damp hollow squid.
So yes, I left the cinema speechless. But, unfortunately, in more of a dumbfounded ‘well that was a waste of time’ kind of way. The final picture just does not live up to the impressive puzzle pieces that have come before it.
As an aside, I did really enjoy seeing the DLR and some of East London on screen. Who doesn’t like a bit of ‘I’ve been there’ goodness? If only they’d come a little closer to UEL.
Whilst watching: ★★★★☆
Trance is out now.