Thursday, 4 April 2013

Trance - Film Review

**This Post May Contain Spoilers**

Simon (James McAvoy), an art auctioneer, is embroiled in a heist gone wrong, the botched attempt leaving him without recollection of what happened that day - much to the anger of his criminal associates (led by Vincent Cassell). In a desperate attempt to prompt his memory and locate the missing art piece, he turns to hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), who believes she can unlock Simon's memory. Uncertain of who to trust, Simon endures the protracted process of trying to remember what is real amidst false and suppressed memories - all the while growing dangerously close to Elizabeth.

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If there is an actor I trust above all others to put on a solid performance, it's James McAvoy. When picking films, more often than not, I'm guilty of basing my decisions on the casting (much to the chagrin of my nearest and dearest!) It's not that I blithely bias myself to solely watch films for the lone reason that I 'like' an actor. It's certainly a consideration but there are a select few in my eyes who I trust with their choice of roles. There are inevitably exceptions to this rule - this logic once led me to watch an obscure biopic on a Hawaiian princess... but it's a habit of mine, and one I don't think I'm alone in indulging in!

 Back to my main point - Any film with McAvoy will be a firm favourite with me. And I've been doubly excited that he has two films (the other being Welcome to the Punch) currently out in cinemas.
  Trance was in a word - amazing. (Note: it took a lot of self-control to not make a hypnotism pun here!) I was hooked. I don't want to laden this post with spoilers and an in-depth analysis of the plot. I will say it was very intricate and did require you to constantly rewind and keep track of the story, which gave it a very compelling edge. (This sounds a bit obvious and non-committal - but it really was a plot which kept you replaying previous events over and over again, whilst you took in what was happening there and then on screen).

I'm finding it hard not to talk in cinematic clich├ęs because this film genuinely ticked a lot of the right boxes - see, one already! There was a great deal of tension, action-oriented sequences, twists within a twist - it was just unlike any film I'd seen before. What struck me most was how signatory it was of a Boyle film. Obviously in most cases, the director is not the writer - but this had such a distinct style that I wasn't too surprised to learn that Boyle also had screenwriting credit. There was the signature gore and the brilliant trance-like sequences which all came to fit together neatly in what became another twist of events - a ploy used expertly without becoming fatigued. He really knows how to stamp his mark.

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 What I loved all the more was that whenever a trance-sequence was in play, unless explicitly stated, it was never expected. There were moments where very much like McAvoy's character, you'd be shaken out of whatever state you had lulled yourself into and realise what you were seeing weren't the bare facts. When a character would jump out of a reverie-like state, there was always the worry that it could be a cop-out; the horrible 'waking from a dream' trick - but fortunately with Trance this doesn't happen.

McAvoy as ever was on perfect form. He ran a gamut of characterisations in one persona, and brilliantly so. From the initial, glass-cut accented art-auctioneer, to the weakest link in a criminal gang with dormant but explosive personality flaws, this was a role fit for a man who's versatility is champion. The character is fractured and disorientated and I always had the feeling that there was more to him - a side that would be revealed later on. This happened to a fierce extent, and McAvoy played it with such panache that it seemed so plausible. He had a mastery of luring you into this character who appears a pawn in a mixed up game, so all the while we never really stop to question his integrity.

 You emotionally invest in him and prioritise him to come out on top. But why? Trance deliberately gives us very little inside information to the character other than his occupation. What we have to go on is his behaviour in the here and now - and yet we trust McAvoy from the start because he serves as a distraction from himself.

  Rosario Dawson was perfectly cast. Her calm and sometimes eerie manner fit expertly with her character. Despite being the protagonist's only hope, she never appeared trustworthy nor completely deceitful. I've never described a character as an enigma before, but she is undoubtedly the first. Vincent Cassel led the supporting cast but I didn't think he embodied his character in quite the same way as his co-stars. He fit the exterior well - the slick art thief and head of a criminal gang, but there just didn't seem enough focus on his character for us to make a solid judgement. I personally would have liked a bit more into his psyche and what made him tick but Trance doesn't commit too much time to this. Additionally, a burgeoning romance between his character and Dawson's isn't really given enough screen time to become believable once it's significant to the story's outcome.

I would highly, highly recommend Trance. The story keeps your mind ticking for a long while after you leave the cinema and for good reason. McAvoy and Dawson put on stellar performances, and Boyle again cements his status as a director tour de force.

Radiohead: Talk Show Host
The Cure: Secrets
Aqualung: Strange & Beautiful (I'll Put A Spell On You)
Arctic Monkeys: If You Were There, Beware
Bill Ryder-Jones: By the Church of Appolonia
Arctic Monkeys: Dance Little Liar
The Coral: The Box
The Last Shadow Puppets: Gas Dance
Ludovico Einaudi: Nightbook

This particular track seemed very apt when I thought of the film. A sinister package which warns the protagonist not to open under any circumstances, but which soon drives him mad with curiosity reminded me of the of the dangers associated with unlocking Simon's memories.

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