Trance (2013) Review

“Trance” is an edgy, complex and stylish psychological thriller with a twisty turny plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Or at least it wants to be, and you know what? I think we should let it, because it tries so very, very hard. So hard.

Starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson, “Trance” is a remake/ reimagining of a 2001 made-for-TV movie about an auction house art heist which goes awry and the steps taken by the robbers to recover the painting they stole. Auctioneer Simon (McAvoy) becomes involved in a plot to steal a painting during an auction, using the security procedures of the auction house against itself but during the robbery, Simon takes a blow to the head and is rendered unconscious.

When the boss of the gang Franck (Cassel) receives what he expects to be the painting, he finds the frame is empty and seeks out Simon for some answers. The only problem is, Simon has amnesia. In order to unlock the memory of where SImon hid the painting, Franck sends him to a hypnotherapist, Elizabeth Lamb (Dawson). Under hypnosis, Simon finds that the location of the painting is the least of the memories he has suppressed as a tangled web of violence and deception slowly starts to unravel.

Filmed just before he started work on the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony (with post-production picked up after the games were finished), “Trance” benefits enormously from Danny Boyle’s visual flair and ability to infuse the screen energy and vibrancy. And it sorely needs it because shorn of Boyle’s touches, “Trance” would be a very ordinary potboiler thriller with increasingly muddled double-crosses piling up towards the end of the film like blockages in a drain.

McAvoy seems disinterested in the role and the film, giving us a retread of his character in “Welcome To The Punch”, while Vincent Cassel (in a role originally intended for Michael Fassbender) is unconvincing as gangland boss Franck. Most miscast of all is Rosario Dawson as a London-based hypnotherapist. There’s nothing inherently wrong with her performance, it simply doesn’t come together with the rest of the film.

The story itself strains credibility, especially once the revelations start coming and the treatment of hypnosis and its abilities is closer to comic book sensibilities than psychotheraputic reality. It really does try to be as thriller-y as it can be though, peppering the screen with bouts of brutal violence and even gratuitous full-frontal nudity but it all feels very cheap and sensational. Maybe it would have been better had it been set in New York, as originally intended and had it starred McAvoy, Fassbender and Johansson (as was also the intention – see, it’s sounding better already isn’t it?) but scheduling conflicts and other demands on the talents involved made this a compromised project from the start, fitted in and around other work, leaving the end product one of style over substance.

Unsure of whether to go for glamour or grit and uncomfortably juggling the illusory with bleak reality, there are a few too many ‘but [X] was actually [Y] all along’ reveals piled on top of one and other to really satisfy. More of a creative misfire than a bad movie, it’s still a major disappointment given the talent involved.




  1. Laura O March 7, 2014

    Brilliant review of a dreadful film. I really can’t express quite how much I disliked this film!

    • The Craggus March 7, 2014

      Yeah, I had such high hopes for it, but it’s just all wrong!

      • Laura O March 7, 2014

        I was just glad I scored tickets to a free screening. I’d have been really pissed off if I’d paid!

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