Monday, 15 July 2013

Trance (2013) - Danny Boyle

Oh dear. I wanted to like Trance, I really did. And for the first ten minutes or so I did. The art heist that kicks the film off and sets the story in motion is a thrilling piece of cinema. Typical Danny Boyle, looks gorgeous, booming soundtrack and very very fast paced. But then for some reason the voice over narration disappears (always a bad sign), if you’re going to use something like that (voice over) then at least have the grace to have it throughout the film, otherwise it feels like what it is - tacked on to explain things to the audience, information that a director of Boyle’s stature should be able to convey via images. But the voice over being given the heave-ho is the least of Trance’s problems. Where to begin?

Well let’s start with that wonderful beginning. Danny Boyle films have always had a strong start, think about how Trainspotting and Shallow Grave sucked you into the film straight away. Then consider probably his most audacious opening, that of 28 Days Later. Which is still just mouth open, jaw on the floor, how the fuck did they do that astounding. When it comes to endings Boyle isn’t quite so strong, he tends to slap a huge anthem on the soundtrack and over-egg everything a bit, not always but sometimes. Sunshine started well but around the halfway mark became something entirely different, same with 28 Days Later. Trance suffers the same fate but almost from the start of the film.

Simon (James McAvoy) is an art auctioneer with a gambling problem, Franck (Vincent Cassel) is a heavy type who is going to steal a Goya painting from the auction house that Simon works at, with Simon’s help. So far, so ordinary. Except Simon manages to swipe the picture before giving it to Franck and thanks to a bump on the head, can’t remember what he’s done with said painting. Deep sigh, it get’s worse. Enter Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) a hypnotherapist who is hired to find out just what the hell is going on by talking softly to Simon. Now apparently she can not only make him remember things, but also make him forget other things, oh and shuffle around his memories. Cough, cough. By this point you’re already being asked to suspend an awfully large amount of disbelief. This isn’t the Inception world of Science-Fiction, this is supposedly set in the here and now of London. Basically things get weirder, and initial opinions about characters change as the film progresses, as does the whole tone of the film. There are huge chunks of the running time where you will not have a clue what’s going on, is he hypnotized now, or is this actually happening sort of stuff. And that’s all well and good, but you need a damn good ending to explain away everything that’s happened. Trance doesn’t have that ending. Everything (well almost everything) is rattled off in a monologue towards the end of the film, and it doesn’t work. It’s too insane, too far out to make any sort of sense. And after all that Boyle has the nerve to try the Inception spinning top ending. Sorry Danny but you haven't earnt that mate.

Trance is a film that demands to be watched multiple times, so that when you know the story you’ll be able to sit back and nod as it all unfolds second or third time around. Unfortunately it’s simply not a good enough film to ever want to watch again. The three main leads are all perfectly fine, like all of Boyle’s films it’s well edited and looks impressive (Anthony Dod Mantle is still on DoP duties so no huge surprise there). It’s well directed too, there’s lots of glass and reflections underscoring the theme of duality, and it’s got a nice huge electronic score (by Underworld’s Rick Smith). But the story is just too silly, and by the time it’s over you’ll be thinking about how Breaking Bad's going to end or what to have for dinner, anything but the nonsense you've just finished watching.

At the end of the day I still love Danny Boyle, I love him for trying things, for never getting stuck in the rut of making the same film over and over, for not being scared of being British and embracing the American glossiness that most British directors do so badly. I love that his films are pure entertainment, for someone that claims Alan Clarke and Nic Roeg as two of his biggest influences he couldn’t make films any further away from their output if he tried. Boyle makes films to be watched on a Saturday night when your plans have fallen through, and you’d still rather be out. For all his faults, his films are watchable and fun and always interesting. There’s no deep message, like Tarantino it’s all surface, and there’s nowt wrong with that. It’s just that Trance is the worst film he has made in a long time. And I haven’t even mentioned Rosario Dawson’s totally out of place full frontal scene, and the way it’s explained away in such a pathetic way. Please don’t fuck up Porno Danny. Please.

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