Today we have another special entry in Rorschach on DVD, a segment where I catch up with all of the diamonds in the rough that I have missed since the year’s beginning. This time, we have a film that combines a director who has given us the likes of 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting with a genre which has given us the likes of Inception, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and 12 Monkeys. That movie is Trance; Danny Boyle’s mind-bending thriller starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel. While its imaginative premise and Boyle’s skillful direction are enough to make you pay attention, an excess of late-game plot twists coupled with a resulting low amount of character development prevent Trance from measuring up to its director’s usual sterling standard.
Trance revolves around a botched art heist and the attempt to locate a stolen painting from the amnesia-stricken brain of one of its perpetrators (James McAvoy). In order to retrieve the memory, the thieves seek the help of a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson), thus setting up the “mind bending” component that ultimately gives the film its identity. I say this because while the way the premise is executed is more or less original, it still feels like more or less of the same kind of twist-filled thriller that we’ve seen many times before. That isn’t to say that Trance is any sort of blatant Inception-knockoff or anything, but it’s hard not to see the plot similarities at nearly every turn. Unfortunately, while Inception managed to counteract some deficiencies in character development with a high level of entertainment value, Trance’s darker tone does nothing to distract you from the fact that the characters are mostly chess pieces for the plot to move around.
Putting those issues aside, Trance is still far from a bad film. The characters might be so bogged down in the explanation of plot mechanics that there’s hardly any time to develop their personalities, but the performances behind those characters are easily strong enough to keep you interested in what’s going on. The plot twists come a little too fast and a little too abruptly in the film’s third act, but they still managed to surprise me more often than not. Like most mind-bending movies, it would probably play better for a second viewing once you know enough to catch the subtleties that build up to the eventual reveals. As for the first viewing, Trance is still an extremely interesting (if not quite satisfying) departure from the usual cookie-cutter storylines that usually dominate the release slate of any given year.
The Verdict: 7.0/10 – Good
+ The plot is imaginative, ambitious and refreshingly light on predictability
+ McAvoy, Dawson and Cassel give some extremely dedicated performances
– The plot twists are too plentiful and too abrupt in the third act
– The script is more concerned with explaining the story than establishing the characters
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
The Cinema Monster: 8.5/10
The Code is Zeek: 4/5
A Door Into Movies: 3/4
Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 7.5/10
Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop: 3.5/5
Fast Film Reviews: 3.5/5
Average: 7.2/10 – Good