09 April 2013


Today was Cheap Tuesday, so I went to the cinema. My options were the new Die Hard (and as much as I try to avoid reviews beforehand, I've read mixed reports) or Danny Boyle's new film, "Trance". Kara was working, and since she'd rather see "DH5" than "Trance", I picked the latter to see on my own.

One of several poster designs.
This is a film built on twists. I will try to avoid obvious spoilers, other than those readily found in official trailers and one-sentence plot summaries.

The film opens with an introduction from our central character, art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy). As part of the story's playing with fact, fiction, memory and hypnosis, the fourth wall is broken and he explains the anti-theft procedures of auction houses directly to the audience.

"Would you like to buy an encyclopedia?"

Simon tells us how they guard against theft. Then he tells us that forces modern thieves to adapt. Of course, as soon as we've been told how things could go wrong, in an "event" to use his terminology, we know what's going to happen. This is movie-land, after all.

The Goya masterpiece being sold for millions is the target of an attempted robbery by a gang led by Franck (played by one of my favourite French actors, Vincent Cassel). The gang are extremely well prepared for all eventualities.

The art thieves: Franck and his buddies.
All except the unpredictable Simon. Even after reminding his coworkers that "No piece of art is worth a human life", Simon makes the risky move of trying to overpower Franck. A violent scuffle leads to him sustaining a heavy blow to the head. The thieves get away, but with the frame only (this isn't a spoiler, by the way), and opening credits roll as images of brain scans fade in and out of sequences showing Simon's hospitalisation, surgery, and recovery.

"Officer, I was framed..."
Obviously, Franck has a problem - he needs to find the painting that belongs in his nice (but pretty worthless) frame.

He has another problem. Simon has amnesia as a result of his blow to the head, and is equally clueless as to the stolen painting's whereabouts.

When torture fails, hypnotherapy becomes the gangster's last resort... enter Dr Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to complicate matters.

Dr Lamb.
Here begins the blurring between reality and memory, and between past and present. Like Christopher Nolan's "Inception", a lot of these scenes are left up to the audience to debate. The addition of suspected/possible/probable double-crosses (typical of heist flicks) adds another layer to the muddying of reality.

The cinematography, from Anthony Dod Mantle (who has worked with Danny Boyle before), was one of my favourite things about this film. His work with lighting and reflections is particularly effective with this story. There are also various film (and video) effects used to great effect to highlight fantasies, memories, and hypnotic-suggestion sequences.

If there's a downside, it's that once we start getting more background "dirt" on each of our characters, they become less likeable. Some quite so. But the story was still engaging, and I stuck it through to get more clues as to what might be "really" going on.

Two side notes on the casting.
There were several moments during the film where I got the feeling Simon's role was written with Ewan McGregor in mind. And that's not just because McAvoy is another Scot.
I've read that Michael Fassbender was in consideration for the role of Franck. That in itself would have worked, but I don't know if seeing Fassbender and McAvoy duelling onscreen again (after their brilliant turns in "X-Men: First Class") would've had quite the same appeal in this film.

At turns gripping, at turns mysterious, I was certainly engrossed and entertained. Towards the middle it almost (but only almost) gets too complicated trying to sort out what's going on.

Another side note for comparison: It's nowhere near the level of we-tried-to-be-clever-and-just-got-confused that is "Ocean's Twelve". (Oh, the fans loved the twists and turns in "Eleven"? I know, let's give "Twelve" twice as many double-crosses, and twice as many cut-and-paste misleading time-lines! They'll love it twice as much!)

Nowhere near my favourite Danny Boyle film (that'd be "Sunshine", folks), but it's up there with his better films in my opinion.

7 out of 10 spinning tops.

1 comment:

FlyRedButterfly said...

Thanks Glenn because of your review this is the movie Mum Dad and I are going to see tomorrow..

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