James McAvoy in "Trance"

James McAvoy in “Trance”

“Trance” isn’t a masterful film, nor even a good one. The plot is creaky, the characters are unlikeable, and the conclusion and twists are disappointing and unsatisfying. But if you can put the structural failures aside and just go with the visual flow, the film is a rewarding enough experience just to appreciate its innovations in cinematography despite the shallowness of story.

Dir: Danny Boyle (2013)

 You have to admire a director for taking on bold new projects that break out of their established repertoire. Danny Boyle certainly did so in breaking out of his recent humanistic films “127 Hours” and “Slumdog Millionaire” with “Trance”, the story of an amnesia-ridden art auctioneer who undergoes hypnotherapy to find the location of a valuable painting. On the surface, the concept is intriguing and it initially proceeds at a brisk pace to appear insightful. But it quickly dissolves into a murky mess of betrayal, violence and lust that renders the film ultimately forgettable.

We open with Simon (James McAvoy), an Art auctioneer who after attempting to stop a robbery by the fiendish Frank (Vincent Cassel), ends up with a nasty bump on the noggin and an extended stay of amnesia with no recollection of the painting. Frank tortures Simon for the location of the painting and after finally realizing he has no recollection of prior events, he forces Simon to seek the advice of Hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to see if she can crack the bloke’s brain to find the painting’s hidden whereabouts. Elizabeth quickly catches on and wants in on the action, so the gang teams up to submerge into Simon’s subconscious for to discover the valuable painting’s hidden location.

But then, an embarrassing number of twists and turns unfold in “Trance” to make M. Night Shyamalan jealous. The film overuses the double-crossing motif that the plot no longer is intriguing but merely tiresome. McAvoy and Cassel give incredibly charismatic and passionate performances, but Dawson just waddles and speaks in a continuous monotone manner that when her character’s true intentions are revealed, they are too boring to be important.

Plot troubles aside, “Trance” is an undeniably unabashed visual spectacle. Not a single shade or hue of color is absent, and each frame is painted with a magnificent and disciplined hand that the film would be just as entertaining to watch on mute. The hypnosis scenes showcase Boyle’s signature touch for the surreal that they rank amongst the best in modern film dream sequences. Even though this film lacked the distinguished character driven story that awarded Boyle Oscar statuettes, it still has enough of his keen visual sensibilities to make “Trance” incredibly raw and unique. Not all art is appreciated upon first viewing, but with a keen eye attentive viewers can see past the faults and into the treasures that lie in “Trance”

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3 / 5 stars     

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