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by Peter Sobczynski

"I've Been Hyp-Mo-Tized!!!"
4 stars

To call "Trance," the latest work from director Danny Boyle, one of the most preposterous movies in recent memory would be one of the all-time great acts of understatement. It is, in fact, one of the most preposterous things of any type to come along in a long, long time and every time that you think it can't possibly get any loopier, it proceeds to do just that. That said, I mean this not as criticism but as a simple observation laced with a certain sense of admiration for the lunacies that Boyle has provided this time around. Few established filmmakers--especially those who already have an Oscar or two lying around--would be willing to go to the cheerfully ludicrous lengths that he offers up here or be able to present them in such a ridiculously entertaining manner.

By the way, while I will be doing my level best to avoid revealing too many of the twists and turns, it is necessary to mention a couple of them in order to set up the story. While I don't plan to reveal anything more than what is already common knowledge from the trailers and commercials, please consider this a Spoiler Warning! for the entire review.

James McAvoy stars as Simon, an employee at a prestigious London auction house and as the film opens, he explains to us the procedures that he is to follow to hide and protect the art in the event that someone attempts to rob the place--the central rule being "Do not be a hero." One day, while Goya's 1798 masterpiece "Witches in the Air" is on the block, a gang led by the fearsome Franck (Vincent Cassel) bursts into the joint in the hopes of stealing it and while in the midst of safeguarding the painting, Simon decides to break that central rule and winds up losing the painting to Franck and getting a massive crack to the skull for his troubles.

It sounds straightforward enough but things quickly take a turn for the unexpected. First, we learn that the theft was an inside job and that Simon was in cahoots with Franck all along. Then Franck is chagrined, to say the least, when he opens the case containing the painting and discovers that it has vanished. To confuse matters even further, Simon is now suffering from partial amnesia cause by the blow to the head from Franck and cannot remember what he did with it or where it could be.

When the more traditional forms of information extraction fail to elicit much information, an idea is hatched in which Simon will go to a hypnotherapist--supposedly in an effort to find his lost car keys--and the others will be listening via a wire in the hopes that enough information is divulged to locate the painting. His first session with the beautiful Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) only yields his actual keys and when he arrives for another session, she begins to suspect that something is up and silently asks Simon if he is in trouble. She then demands to see whoever is in charge to find out what is really going on and to get a piece of the action for herself in exchange for her help.

At this point, some of you may be cursing me for divulging far too much of the plot, especially after promising not to do just that, and wondering why I have suddenly transmogrified into Jeffrey Wells. Let me assure you that everything I have made reference to happens within the first 20-odd minutes and that "Trance" has plenty more tricks in store, absolutely none of which I would even dream of spoiling except to note that what follows is arguably the most luridly twisty plotline to grace a film since the trash classic "Wild Things." So much goes on, in fact, that the painting, in the proud tradition of MacGuffins past, begins to come across as an afterthought after a whle.

When I first saw the trailer for "Trance" a few weeks ago--the first time I had even heard of it--I was surprised to see that when they mentioned the past credits of Danny Boyle, they cited earlier works like the cult favorites "Shallow Grave," "Trainspotting" and "28 Days Later" instead of such highly acclaimed later hits as "Slumdog Millionaire" and "127 Hours." Having seen the film, I now understand why because "Trance" is a return to the brashly flashy approach--both visual and narrative--of those earlier efforts. Granted, Boyle has never exactly been what one might call a subdued filmmaker but he pulls out all the imaginable stops (not to mention a few unimaginable ones as well) this time around. Perhaps making a film in which the vast majority of the time is spent looking at James Franco pinned to a boulder is just the ticket for getting the stylistic juices flowing.

The screenplay by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge (the latter returning to the Boyle fold after having previously written the scripts for several of his early hits), is, as I have suggested, is complete nonsense from top to bottom--a non-stop roller coaster of sex, violence, duplicity, art history, close shaves, closer shaves and red herrings a-plenty--and anyone attempting to deal with it in a sane and straightforward manner would no doubt find themselves overwhelmed by the material. The trick here is that the film is perfectly aware right from the start that the entire thing is nonsense--during one of the early scenes meant to establish the premise, the script cheekily undercuts both itself and potential audience skepticism by having a character blurt out "Amnesia is bollocks!"--and goes from there.

Although using the phrase "Hitchcockian" is an easy crutch for any critic writing about a thriller, in this case, it is apt because the film is kind of like "North by Northwest" in the sense that it tells its story in such a breathlessly exciting manner that it is only after you return home and start thinking about it that it begins to occur that the story, once properly analyzed, makes no goddamn sense whatsoever. The film starts off like a shot and Boyle manages to keep things humming along for the most part by pulling out practically every trick in the book and a few new ones to boot.

He is aided by a trio of lead performances from actors who know that they are playing archetypes instead of realistic characters--McAvoy is playing the seemingly open everyman capable of harboring some dark secrets, Cassel is the cheerfully nasty Eurosleaze and Dawson is the one whose stunning beauty is meant to distract from her character's total implausibility--and handle the material as deftly as possible under the circumstances. There is also a brief but key appearance by an actress named Tuppence Middleton that bears mentioning for the simple reason that if one is confronted with a name as splendid to behold as Tuppence Middleton, one should drop it as many times as possible when given the chance.

"Trance" does begin to bog down towards the end when it finally trips over the line into complete implausibility in its increasingly desperate attempts to simultaneously wrap up all the plot thread and spring a few final surprises on the presumably bewildered audience. Until then, it is a hell of a ride and those willing to put matters of logic and plausibility aside for a couple of hours are likely to have a lot of fun with it. It may not be the best nor the worst movie out there right now but it is definitely the most inexhaustible of the bunch. And without going into tacky details, let me simply state that if you are a follower of Mr. Skin, that indefatigable fount of screen nudity knowledge, you are going to be worshipping this one like few others in recent memory.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24931&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/11/13 14:50:44
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User Comments

9/30/17 danR Confusing. But if you're curious what hypnotherapists look like in their birthday suit... 4 stars
8/29/13 Langano Fun ride 4 stars
7/25/13 mr.mike Not as clever as it thinks it is. 3 stars
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  05-Apr-2013 (R)
  DVD: 23-Jul-2013


  DVD: 23-Jul-2013

Directed by
  Danny Boyle

Written by
  Danny Boyle
  John Hodge

  James McAvoy
  Vincent Cassel
  Rosario Dawson

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