Trance: A labyrinth without a center
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If you like your twists uncomplicated with heart or soul, you’ll love this flick. As an exercise in compelling confusion, this mind-heist movie by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) works. The shooting is stylish, and the acting is intriguing. As Simon, James McAvoy’s baby blues convince you that a bump on the head really did leave him with no memory of where he left that stolen painting. Vincent Cassel delights as Franck, the leader of the scrambling gang of thieves. (If you take one thing away from Trance, make it a resolution to watch Cassel’s back catalogue, especially 1995’s Cannes favorite Le Haine.) And Rosario Dawson appropriately mesmerizes as the hypnotherapist, Elizabeth, hired to retrieve the memory of the robbery from Simon’s troubled mind.
The plot ducks and weaves entertainingly. Early on in the film, I guessed the who but not the how, which let me feel smart for guessing correctly while leaving me with enough questions to be interested until the end. Interested, but not satisfied: (SMALL SPOILER) The beginning of the movie had a playful wit that quickly darkens; when the grimness suddenly flips to sunny at the end—upbeat soundtrack and all—the tonal shift felt un-earned.
A recent mind-heist precedent, Inception, also twisty and stylish and well-acted, left me thinking about loss and asking questions about the mind’s capacity for self-delusion. Trance just had me questioning, “Why is the hypnotherapist naked again?” and thinking about a particularly nasty bit of third-act violence that went un-justified and un-examined. It didn’t lead me beyond the film, only frustratingly back in. Labyrinth, indeed.
So here’s my recommendation: Go if you’re a fan of thrillers and want a case-study in structuring a twist-heavy plot. But if you’re looking for post-film-deep-conversation fodder, find another film, friends.