Danny Boyle's heist film Trance is slick | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Danny Boyle's heist film Trance is slick 

Rosario Dawson in "Trance"

Photo by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Rosario Dawson in "Trance"

A friend once said he held a special affinity for Martin Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear because "it feels like Scorsese just having fun." The same could be said for Danny Boyle's Trance, his return of sorts to crime thrillers like his 1994 feature debut, Shallow Grave.

Over the years, Boyle's budgets have grown and his collaborators have changed—for example, Anthony Dod Mantle has emerged as his regular cinematographer. The consequence is a slick, self-assured oeuvre that, in Trance, Boyle dares to juxtapose against van Gogh, Rembrandt and Delacroix. Unfortunately, the film also mirrors a piece of modern art that holds less meaning the longer you stare at it.

Introduced through a chorus of lens flares, synth bass and recital of his professional duties, Simon (James McAvoy) is an auctioneer working at a London auction house that's robbed by Franck (Vincent Cassell) and his cartoony gang. Simon suffers a blow to the head during a heist of a Goya painting, which briefly obscures the fact that Simon is complicit with the caper, the consequence of ambling debts he owes Franck.

The blow also gives Simon amnesia, with the unfortunate result being that he forgets where he stowed away the painting. After crude means of interrogation prove fruitless, Franck turns to hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), who figures out that Simon isn't there just to find, say, his missing keys. And she wants her cut.

A generally taut heist flick soon leaps down a psychological rabbit hole, as Elizabeth's therapy sessions provide more insight into Simon's past. But everything is subsumed by Boyle's stylistic mannerisms. Elizabeth is too self-assured, while Franck's patience and panache belies the portrait of a seedy British gangster. As Simon devolves into a nervy knot of neuroses, Boyle at first blurs, then obliterates, the line between reality and fancy.

Trance feels like a film made by someone auditing a community college course in hypnotherapy by day and watching Inception on repeat every night. It's captivating to look at, and I'm not (just) talking about Dawson's frequent nudity. The photography and camerawork are polished, the cast is capable (even when their characters are miswritten), and the electronica score by Underworld's Rick Smith propels Boyle's frenetic pace. But once you manage to catch your breath, the incongruities and illogic crowd out the visual acuity.

As the false endings pile up, there's the chatty big reveal that ties up the loose ends ... except it doesn't. Boyle's marriage of art and psychoanalysis implodes into an indulgent morass of mixed motives and plot twists. At one point, a character is given the option of pressing a button on a computer screen that will enable that person to "forget everything." Bleary viewers of Trance won't require any such assistance.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Dreams and jingles."

Film Details

  • Trance

    • Rated R - Drama, Suspense/Thriller
Rated R · 101 min. · 2013
Official Site: www.trancethemovie.com
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Joe Ahearne and John Hodge
Producer: Christian Colson and Danny Boyle
Cast: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, Tuppence Middleton, Sam Creed, Lee Nicholas Harris, Danny Sapani, Ben Cura and Hamza Jeetooa


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Trance


Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review

Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

The only peeople who murdered those boys were let off by an inexperienced prosecutor and hoodwinked judge. The facts are …

by Greg 1 on The West Memphis Three are free ... what about the real killer? (Film Review)

"Miles Ahead"... "opening Friday".... where? I'm having a tough time finding film times/locations on www.indyweek.com now. The …

by Tbone on Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis Film, Miles Ahead, Isn’t a Real Biopic—It’s Something Better (Film Review)

Actually, many evangelicals and other Christians would not agree with the notion that "if you are a true believer you …

by bsquizzato on Film Review: Christian Movie Miracles From Heaven Goes Where Secular Hollywood Won't (Film Review)


The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation