Dawson hypnotizes, but Trance does not

Trance (2013)

What happens when James McAvoy gets hit in the head by Vincent Cassel and does not remember anything? Great question, and in Trance, a motion picture by director Danny Boyle, we find out. McAvoy’s character, Simon, is a dubious art auctioneer, who teams up with even more dubious criminals, led by Cassel’s character Franck, to search the painting Simon has mysteriously lost. You might wonder, how does one lose a painting? Well, Simon did, perhaps because Franck hit him in the head, causing Simon to forget everything that happened – or is it part of a bigger story? In order to regain Simon’s memory, he visits a hypnotist, Elizabeth Lamb. Brilliantly portrayed by Rosario Dawson, she helps Simon, but is she really who she says she is?

Trance did raise some expectations by yours truly. On paper, the film looks like a magical mix of the right director, the right actors and the right cinematographer – and I was intrigued. Is Trance as good on screen as it is on paper? The answer: yes… and no.

Danny Boyle, the man behind Slimdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, has a certain reputation to maintain and with Trance, he maintained it perfectly. The directing is superb. It supports the story perfectly, because Boyle shifts between lingering and fast takes fluently. This makes for the audience to really experience hypnosis: Rosario Dawson’s voice guides you through colorful scenes, dazzling story-lines and rather confusing twists and turns.

The story of Trance is brilliant. It is very well written, with an interesting plot-line and breathtaking twists and turns. At first, the story seems simple, an art-heist that went wrong somewhere down the road, but as the film continues, the real story comes to life. There is an art heist, sure, but as the story unravels, a deeper, darker and poisonous love story takes the lead, with Rosario Dawson as its leading lady. Some scenes that you see in the first part of the film, are not what they appear, when Simon thinks back of them, with Elizabeth in his head. The signs were there all along, but they were cleverly hidden.

One of the things that I liked most about Trance, is the cinematography. Anthony Dod Mantle, who worked together with Boyle on his previous films, did a fantastic job. The settings are cold and clean, while the lighting is bright and fluorescent. Alternating between both bright yellow and blue, the cinematography sets Trance apart from other films in this genre, such as Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Where Inceptions cinematography is very stylistic and clean, Trance is more edgy and rough.

The absolute star of Trance is Rosario Dawson. She carries this film, in my opinion. Her character, the hypnotist Elizabeth Lamb, is both very calm and intelligent, but together with the ominous look in her eyes, she is intriguing and Dawson portrays her so wonderfully. If her acting had not been that great, I would not have written a review this positive, no matter how well McAvoy’s and Cassel’s acting had been – because their acting was. McAvoy’s Simon is very relatable at first, but as the story continues, his dark side really comes through and the actor portrays this beautifully. There is a quiet, suppressed anger in his character, as well as a dark innocence. Slowly, as his memory starts to come back, Simon begins to unravel and the great actor in McAvoy shines through. The third link in the triangle of Trance, is Vincent Cassel, who always seems to play the evil Frenchman, but does this very believable.

Then, what did I not like about Trance? I did not like the fact that it reminded me of Inception, a little bit too much. In Nolan’s film, there plays a song when the characters have to wake up from their dream-state, and in Trance, Simon has to wake up from his hypnosis when he hears the ringtone from his phone. Subtle difference, nevertheless, it reminded me too much of Inception. Also the hypnosis in the hypnosis in someone else’s hypnosis, definitely recalls Inception’s dream in a dream in a dream. Clearly, Trance did everything in its power to avoid comparisons like this, with the cinematography and the styling, but unfortunately, it did not succeed.

With the help of previously mentioned comparison, I would like to point out another flaw of Trance. Where Inception remains clear on wether the characters are in a dream-state or not, Trance made me lose track. At one point, I had no idea wether Simon or Vincent or anybody else was under hypnosis or not. It was too confusing, to be honest, and at times annoying – I wanted to enjoy this interesting story and the great acting, but instead, I was wondering wether it was al real or not.

My final point is the ending of Trance. I will not spoil anything, but it felt dashed off and it left the audience with too many questions: How did they end up where they ended up? I felt like I missed something vitally important, like I got lost in the twists and turns of the story and I did not like it. The ending tasted bitter after 101 minutes that confused me, but that I enjoyed – very much.

Trance is a good film, no doubt about it. The directing, the story, the acting and the cinematography are stunning, but it becomes too overwhelming and too confusing. The hypnosis started to work, mostly thanks to Rosario Dawson and the cinematography, but it did not succeed, because of the confusion.