Reel Reviews | Trance

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The complex story of a botched heist involving a multi-million dollar painting sets the stage for a war of wills among a group of mysterious strangers in Danny Boyle’s richly engrossing and highly entertaining film, Trance.

Auctioneer, Simon (James McAvoy) is in the middle of routine day at the office, overseeing the auction of some priceless works of arts. After a painting sells for over $20 million, chaos ensues and Simon scoops up the painting to safeguard it from harm. Before he can store it, he is knocked unconscious and robbed.

While Simon ‘s head is ringing and he wondering what hit him, the gang of thieves, led by Franck (Vincent Cassell) are having heartaches of their own when they discover that the painting they swiped is missing. Soon, we discover that Simon was supposed to supply the painting as payment to Franck for an old gambling debt. Unfortunately for Franck, his blow to Simon’s head has given the bewildered Simon a case of amnesia and he can’t remember what happened to the painting.

After trying all forms of torture and coercion trying to get Simon to reveal the painting’s whereabouts, Franck concludes that the only way to uncover the priceless artwork is to get inside his head – in the form of hypnotherapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to jar his memory. Soon Simon finds himself at her office and Elizabeth’s initial expression upon meeting her new client foreshadows future events.


This roller coaster whirlwind of a script, written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge, is a classic slow-burning pot boiler. Imagine focusing on a particular spot for a minute and then take a step back and repeat the process. Just as soon as you’re comfortable with what you think you know, Boyle pulls the camera back to reveal a little more of his masterpiece.

In addition to the film slowly exposing its layers, its talented cast performs like a virtuoso cinematic orchestra, each taking turns showcasing their characters strengths and vulnerabilities. In Boyle’s world, the strong become the weak, the first becomes the last and almost anyone or anything is a possibility.

McAvoy, who has made a career of playing suffering characters, is in top form again as the man who has the secret that can unlock a mystery in his head. The success of the film hinges on his ability to convey that emotion as the audience lives vicariously through his perilous journey. He is pushed very aggressively by Franck, who is skeptical about Elizabeth’s hypnosis technique but desperately seeks the whereabouts of the painting.

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Cassell, always intriguing, is solid once again as the heavy who combines fierce intensity with a certain wistfulness that adds depth to his character. While both McAvoy and Cassell are formidable, Dawson’s performance is  . . . transcendental. Her character is smart, mysterious and sultry and she gives one of the strongest performances of her career.

Trance is an intoxicating brew that displays the deftness of Inception, sprinkled with a helping of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind combined with a pinch of The Usual Suspects. While not the perfect film, it is in this critic opinion one of the true early surprises of 2013 which left me entranced!

Grade: A+