This past weekend, I ventured to the movie theater with my boyfriend as a last minute “hey, let’s do something cause it’s Friday night” outing. Thankfully, the current movie listings are so underwhelming that seeing a random Danny Boyle film we knew nothing about sounded more fun than paying through the nose to watch Halle Berry stop a serial killer, or Gerard Butler stop terrorists, or Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson stop Cobra.
Boyle is known for some great movies, including Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, however Trance is most similar to the 1996 drug-fueled chaos that is Trainspotting. Much like after watching Trainspotting, when you are done with Trance, you will leave the theater loudly proclaiming, “What the fuck did I just watch?!”
This movie is fantastic!
Trance is a movie about a would-be art thief, played by James McAvoy, who suffers a severe head trauma during his debut robbery. Quickly stashing said painting, McAvoy suffers from severe amnesia causing him to quickly forget the treasure’s hiding place. Enraging his fellow thieves, the gang eventually resorts to hypnosis to bring back McAvoy’s memory of the painting’s location.
By playing with the idea of hypnosis, Trance drags the audience along through reality and dream. By creating confusion in the moment, Boyle makes it impossible for one to speculate what will happen next. This causes future reveals and surprises to be all the more shocking. The viewer is forced to simply sit back and watch as the film chooses when to keep its secrets and when to reveal them. I appreciated this movie mostly for its uniqueness and for my inability to guess what would happen next. So many films are mired in clichés and repetition that it is rare for a movie to truly shock me with its plot developments.
Adding to the shock value, Boyle carefully chooses when to add in moments of extreme gore and sexuality. After a rather tame sex scene, Rosario Dawson’s full frontal nudity comes as a huge surprise. Luring you into a false sense of security, the lull in gore or explosions only serve to make extreme moments more powerful.
However, this is a double-edged sword. By dealing with unique themes such as hypnosis and sexuality within mutual relationships, when extreme scenes or events happened they were occasionally comical in nature. The character’s actions were so inexplicable at times that I could do nothing but laugh at the oddity.
Because the film is, at times, so confusing, I would highly encourage watching it more than once. If I had the budget, I would go back and watch it again in theaters.
Throughout the movie, I picked up on strange images that seemed to foreshadow future events or represent forms of symmetry. However, since the events of the movie quickly run away from any sense of what I knew was going on, I quickly lost any theories of background imagery and foreshadowing. I have yet to be able to get the movie out of my head in a sense; exploring different theories of what Boyle meant when different components were added to different scenes can keep even the most studious of students daydreaming through class.
Boyle’s imagery and scene construction was not perfect, however. True to typical British film style, I was often left with the feeling that the movie was massively under budget. Occasionally, scenes would lag in plot, or the camera quality appeared amateur. As if they were being filmed by a recent film school graduate, Trance’s scenes were unpolished at times.
Overall, this movie was amazing! It was weird and entertaining, successful at surprising me with plot developments and amazing imagery. I recommend anyone who wants to watch something truly unusual and shocking to go see this movie now.