I was quite looking forward to Trance; I had heard a critic say that it was a real effort by Danny Boyle to get out from under the "national treasure" status he had obtained by how well he opened the Olympics in 2012 and that as a result Trance was very much against that image. He was correct because this is a very graphic film in many ways but before that we get to the plot. The plot is simple – an art robbery goes wrong for some reason, with the painting lost when the inside man hides it but forgets where he hid it due to damage inflicted during the robbery. The gang go to a hypnotherapist to try to get it out of him and from here it only gets messy.
I can see what the plot was trying to do because it is constantly twisting and turning as minds are messed with; actions may or may not be programmed; events may or may not be happening and those who appear in control may or may not actually be in control and, even if they are (or aren't), they soon won't be (or will be) because everything will change in a minute. I guess the aim is that the film was aiming for a narrative similar to that of Inception or Usual Suspects, where the story the audience is being told may not be the real story at all. At the end of both these films the effect is to be impressed by how well it did it and I'm sure for many like myself there was the desire to watch it again to be able to see the film in the new context you have. With Trance I did not have this feeling, when things did fall into place I only felt that it was such a messy pile that it had fallen into and I had not enjoyed or been engaged in the manner in which it got there or indeed where it got me at all. You can sense it wants to be smarter and more thrilling that it is, but where Usual Suspects is slick and stylish on its journey, this really just bumbles and blasts it way to the finish hoping it can carry you with it by force alone.
This force comes in the style of Boyle's direction and mostly it is good from this point of view – it is a good looking film but it does really feel like he is forcing the excess for the sake of it rather than it being part of the film. So the very extreme scenes of gore felt like the complexity of the story – there for the sake of being there. Of course this is not to say that I didn't appreciate the extreme (almost "no holds barred") nudity from Rosario Dawson, but again even for the teenage boy in my head, it felt forced and unnatural (the use of her nude – not her as a nude). The cast go along with it the best they can. McAvoy is good while Cassel always has a mean presence. Support cast is decent but I am really not sure about Dawson. It is not that she herself is not good, it is just that the film asks too much of her character and it is clear that Dawson doesn't always know who she is be – in any one scene she can be what is required, but in terms of making it one whole character or making links between these scenes, she cannot do it. I do not think the fault is all her – I guess the relationship with Boyle didn't help with this aspect, but for sure her performance seems unsure and a bit erratic.
Trance will try to bluster and bully you into thinking you're watching something really smart and well structured, but this is not the case. The film is confusing for the sake of it, excessive for the sake of it and ultimately tries to ride this to a satisfying conclusion but in the end you will not be left with feeling that you immediately want to see it again but rather the lingering doubt as to whether you should have bothered in the first place.