Monday, April 22, 2013

Trance (2013 film)

Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge from a story by Ahearne, Trance is the story about an art auctioneer who was involved in a robbery as he’s captured by a criminal who is trying to find a valuable painting with the help of a hypno-therapist. The film is a take on the film noir genre with a modern setting as it blurs the idea of reality and fiction where a man is being hypnotized to find a valuable painting. Starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Tuppence Middleton, and Vincent Cassel. Trance is a hypnotic yet entrancing film from Danny Boyle.

The film is about a robbery where the objective is to get an extremely valuable painting by Francisco Goya where everything goes well except that the actual painting is missing. The art auctioneer involved in the robbery has unknowingly hidden the painting unaware of its whereabouts as a crime boss decides to get a hypno-therapist to get into the mind of this man to see if he can remember where the painting is. What happens is that things get more complicated as reality and fiction begins to blur as does motives where those involved are unsure if everything they’re dealing with isn’t real. It’s a film that is really more about memory and the ability to remember but in the course of the story. Things eventually become more complicated as things aren’t exactly remembered as they were leading to all sorts of confusion where is everything that is happening real or is it part of something more?

The screenplay by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge is presented in a narrative style that recalls the idea of film noir where there are voice-over narration as well as archetypes of what is expected in film noir. Yet, there is much more that is present in the script as it has a narrative that is much more complex where it goes back to the idea of fiction and reality. Leading all of this is this young art auctioneer in Simon (James McAvoy) whose job is to get the painting and give it to the crime boss Frank (Vincent Cassel) who will wipe away his gambling debts in return. Instead, things don’t go that way as Simon tries to play hero where a hit in the head not only has him unsure of the painting’s whereabouts but also makes him vulnerable. By getting the hypno-therapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to go inside Simon’s mind with equal help from Frank and his associates. They hope to see if Simon can remember but under hypnosis, Simon’s mind gets more troubling.

The schematics of noir often has the protagonist falling for the femme fatale and to try and defy the antagonist but Ahearne and Hodge decide to play with those conventions by making these three archetypes much more realistic as well as add a sense of fantasy. Eventually, things become more troubling where Simon falls for Elizabeth though it becomes unclear whether it’s real or in his head as it triggers all sorts of events that happened on the day of the robbery. It creates problems for Elizabeth who realizes how damaged Simon’s head is where Frank starts to lose his patience as he starts to become aware that not everything is as simple as it seems. Even as he is unable to regain control of the situation as he and his goons have to play by not just Elizabeth’s rules but also wait to see if Simon can remember. It’s not just the structure and the way the characters that are created that makes the script so engaging but also its language where it is very stylized and has a certain rhythm that is part of the tradition of film noir.

Danny Boyle’s direction is very stylish in not just its presentation but also for allowing the script to guide him into the idea of fantasy and reality. The film opens with how an auction robbery can be staged as it is told in a noir-style narration as its first act does start off in a conventional manner. Even in the way characters are presented as it then leads to moments where it introduces Elizabeth and play off this world of fantasy and reality. The second act is where Boyle gets to play that world where he places a few scenes in the French countryside though the film is largely set in London. The scenes in France is an ode to not just the world of European art-house cinema of the 60s and 70s but also the idea of a fantasy that can lead to a world of surrealism.

Boyle infuses lot of strange camera angles to present the idea of fantasy and reality where things might seem confusing but there’s aspects of that conflict that maintain the idea that it’s all based on memory. Memory can allow someone to play parts of what happened but not everything can be told exactly at it could be where Boyle shows that things can get very confusing. Still, Boyle is all about emphasizing that world of film noir where there is a payoff and some twists where the third act reveals some more intense dramatic stakes that makes things much more unsettling. Overall, Boyle creates a truly exhilarating and intense ode to film noir about a robbery and a man’s desire to remember what happened.

Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography with its use of colorful lighting schemes and mood settings along with some lens flares to give an air of style to the camera work as Mantle‘s work is a highlight of the film. Editor Jon Harris does amazing work with the editing as it does play an air of style with jump-cuts, montages, and all sorts of cutting style while helping to play out the narrative with its blur of fiction and reality. Production designer Mark Tildesley, with set decorator Dominic Capon and supervising art director Denis Schnegg, does excellent work with the set pieces from the homes of the characters to the recreation of the paintings to establish the value of those works of art.

Costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb does terrific work with the costumes to play out that idea of film noir where some of the clothes are casual while a lot of it also stylized including the clothes that Elizabeth wears. Visual effects supervisor Adam Gascoyne does nice work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects to play out that world of reality, fiction, and surrealism including some of the film‘s violent moments. Sound designer Glenn Freemantle does fantastic work with the sound from a few of the therapy scenes to some of the more quieter moments to play out some of its suspense. The film’s music by Rick Smith is superb for its moody electronic score with elements of pulsating electronic beats and some somber moments as the soundtrack also features music from UNKLE, Moby, M People, Kirsty McGee, Art & Dotty Todd, and a collaborative track with Emeli Sande and Rick Smith.

The casting by Donna Isaacson and Gail Stevens is incredible for the ensemble that is created. Notable small roles include Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, and Wahab Sheikh as Frank’s trio of goons who are always around Frank as they also get a chance to stand out on their own. Other small roles that are memorable include Tuppence Middleton as a woman Simon meets in one of his hypnosis fantasies and Simon Kunz as a surgeon who watches over Simon that Frank later talks to about the concept of memory.

Vincent Cassel is marvelous as the crime boss Frank who is a man that wants his painting as he deals with the idea of hypnosis as well as its complications as he adds a lot of layers to the film that makes him more than just a typical noir antagonist. Rosario Dawson is brilliant as Elizabeth as a hypno-therapist that is trying to get into Simon’s mind while being in control as she would later realize that there are things beyond her control that eventually complicate matters. James McAvoy is remarkable as Simon as a man who can’t remember about what happened in the robbery while being under hypnosis to see if he can remember only to realize that there’s a lot more trouble than he’s facing.

Trance is a phenomenal film from Danny Boyle that is highlighted by its technical brilliance, Rick Smith’s score, and the performances of James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel. It’s a film that is definitely one of Boyle’s most inventive and provocative features as well as a stylish spin on the film noir genre. It’s also a very captivating film that explores the world of memory and how things can either help or prevent someone from finding something. In the end, Trance is a sensational film from Danny Boyle.

Danny Boyle Films: Shallow Grave - Trainspotting - A Life Less Ordinary - The Beach - 28 Days Later - Millions - Sunshine - Slumdog Millionaire - 127 Hours - Steve Jobs (2015 film) - T2 Trainspotting - (Yesterday (2019 film))

© thevoid99 2013


Dan O. said...

It's been awhile since we've seen Boyle do something fun like this, and thankfully it was what it promised. It didn't rest in my mind any longer after I saw it, but at least it kept me entertained while I was watching. Good review man.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. I had a lot of fun watching this film and was just amazed by it. I think it's my 2nd favorite Boyle film behind Trainspotting.