Review - Trance

Trance (2013), R, 101 minutes - Trance is the new heist flick/psychological thriller from director Danny Boyle, starring an uncharacteristically dark James McAvoy.

McAvoy stars as Simon, an art auctioneer who gets mixed up with an unsavory group of thieves when they attempt to rob the auction house that he works for.  After trying to play hero and getting a shotgun butt to the head courtesy of head thief Franck (Vincent Cassel) he is left in a semi-amnesia-tic state (he knows who he is and what happened, but he doesn't remember how the events occurred).  He seeks the help of hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to try and regain his memory so he can attempt to recover the painting.

The beauty of Trance is that its seemingly straightforward plot unfolds into a more and more complex narrative thanks to the inclusion of Simon's sessions with Elizabeth.  We are shown a number of scenarios that did/did not/could have happened, all as a result of his hypnotherapy.  This is fairly confusing for a good portion of the film but it is obviously deliberate on Boyle's part.  It's a very intriguing way of telling the story and keeps the viewer on their toes.  Fortunately, there is a good bit of exposition in the final scenes of the film that clear things up while presenting an Inception-like cliffhanger at the end (although not quite as ambiguous).

Trance takes three very good actors/actresses and plays a little role reversal with them.  Without going too deeply into spoiler territory McAvoy, Cassel, and Dawson all start the film in roles that one could consider as stereotypical for each.  By the end though, things have been turned on their head and all three produce very good performances that don't play out quite as we would expect.  Considering the inclusion of hypnotherapy, I think that it could have been very easy to turn the story into a convoluted mess but in the hands of Danny Boyle it really is a striking picture.

There's language, violence, and some nudity, but if you're looking for a good psychological thriller I would highly recommend Trance.  The story (written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge) is unique and very well presented.  It's also the first of two darker themed McAvoy films this year (the other being Welcome to the Punch), and I for one like what I see so far.

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