Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Trance ★★★½

A Trip Down The Manic Rabbit Hole of Hypnotherapy 

Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando

Danny Boyle is the type of director whose films become synonymous with his style. This can be used to great effect - most recently his 2007 science fiction thriller Sunshine, and 2008's Slumdog Millionaire, for which he won an Academy Award - but can also infringe too much on the story he's trying to tell, exemplified in his last film 127 Hours. Regardless, I'm usually won over because his formalistic technique is so precise that I cannot help but be in awe of his work. This style of his has been perfectly blended with story in his latest film, Trance, a hypnotic thriller with more twists and turns than I, or likely anyone else out there, was not expecting.

It begins simply enough with Simon (James McAvoy), an art auctioneer who helps a group of art thieves steal a painting but fails to remember what he did with said painting after a blow to the head leaves him with amnesia. The art thieves are led by Franck (Vincent Cassel) who, after realizing torturing Simon is ineffective, hears that hypnosis can help with memory loss and persuades Simon to meet with a hypnotherapist of his choosing. That therapist happens to be played by the lovely Rosario Dawson, who agrees to help Simon after learning the truth about why he's come to see her.

The opening of the film is fairly conventional for a director like Boyle; none of his usual motifs are on display. The moment Simon is hit on the head however, what's real and what's imagined become blurry, and Boyle's style takes hold. Boyle, using every trick he has and then some, manages to flow seamlessly between the real world and the world Simon creates in his head. Cutting back and forth between the two is jarring at times but is not to the detriment of the film. Instead, we feel just as Simon does: like we're losing our minds.The more Simon tries to remember, the harder it becomes to differentiate between the two worlds, and the mania that surrounds Simon from every direction becomes chaotic. It's a trip, and I mean that in the best way possible.

It's the type of script where Boyle can do no wrong. With every new scene there's an invitation for Boyle to ramp up his technique, as if to imply that everything that has come before, both in his career and within the film itself, has been practice for this story.  It works. When the film was finished I actually had to catch my breath and release my grip on the arm rests because of what Trance did to me. This isn't just watching a movie; it's having an experience.

After seeing what Boyle has done here, I can't help but wonder how different a film like Inception (don't get me wrong, I love Inception) could have been with Boyle at the helm. In many ways he's the perfect man to do a film about dreams and consciousness, Trance being a jumping off point for an interesting career shift. But that's the thing with a director like this: no matter what his next project is, you cannot help but be excited to see how his style will shape the finished product. Even with his films that maybe don't work as well, you always get the sense that he's perfecting his skills. Thus, every film of his becomes less a work by Danny Boyle and more a piece of art about Danny Boyle. Trance is the best example to date.

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