Brain farts. We’ve all had them. You might have had one while trying to read one of this examiner’s articles amid the site’s fifty million useless ads trying to distract you. The next time you experience a brain fart, do yourself a favor and think really hard about what it was you had set out to do when your mind decided to “betrayal five” you. Chances are you’ll be annoyed, which will devolve into frustration, then anger. Worst case scenario, you never really “remember” what it was you had forgotten, never feel that sigh of relief upon retrieving the memory you’d lost.
But what if you unwittingly carried out the task you’d originally set out to do, without ever recognizing the connection, without feeling that sigh of relief, but it was done? Welcome to Danny Boyle’s insidious mind-trip, ‘Trance.’
When Simon (James McAvoy, ‘X-Men: First Class’), an art auctioneer, suffers a brutal blow to the head during a heist in which he plays a pivotal role, he wakes up in a hospital to find that he has betrayed his cohorts and hidden the painting which they had sought. As if Simon weren’t in hot water enough, the blow he suffered has caused him to suffer from acute amnesia, making it nearly impossible to remember why he decided to betray his colleagues and, more importantly, where the painting is now.
After being forced by the group’s leader, Franck (Vincent Cassel, ‘Black Swan’), to get a brain scan at a nearby clinic, it is suggested by one of the doctors that hypnosis might help Simon remember where he hid the painting. Franck signs Simon up for a session with Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson, ‘Sin City’), a very capable woman who is immediately able to establish a rapport with the latter. But as the two’s connection grows, it becomes apparent that not everything is as it seems. Or who people say they are.
Let’s get a few things straight. First of all, ‘Trance’ is not the ‘Inception’-of-the-year thriller exclamation that you might see pop up in reviews on other sites or blogs. To equate these films in this way is to be either willfully ignorant or lazy, on the writer’s part. Yes, the film focuses on hypnosis, and yes, there are many scenes in which neither Simon nor the audience knows what’s real and what isn’t… but this about as far as the similarities lie (minus the hypnosis). Whereas in ‘Inception’ the confusion was a character in and of itself, in ‘Trance’ the “confusion” is a vehicle, an element of the story that drives the plot.
It’s this element, however, that plays the unfortunate role of highlighting the film for many as disappointingly simple. While it is nice seeing McAvoy play a grittier character, and we love us some yummy Cassel-role, there’s just something that doesn’t click. You never feel that emotional exhilaration of remembrance as to why you just spent an 110 minutes watching everyone backstab each other (or did they?). The success of ‘Trance’ relies on your ability to accept that it isn’t a conventional story, that there are going to be parts of the narrative that you have to fill in.
This wouldn’t be a problem except watching ‘Trance’ is like sifting through a mountain of jigsaw puzzle pieces, even though you only need 25 to complete the picture. The real problem is that once all the pieces are fit together, once you take the time to make your leaps in logic, take into account the rest of the story, reevaluate what the last fifteen, thirty, hundred-and-ten minutes of the film mean, you’re left with a succinctly clear and disquieting “so what?”
Nevertheless, you will find that ‘Trance’ is not without merit if you are willing to dig deep into the context of the film’s events, where it really shines; themes such as the fragility of the human psyche, or Boyle’s commentary on human sexuality make for fantastic polemical meanderings. For the sake of maintaining a spoiler-free review, we won’t explore these bigger thematic constructs of the story. But rest assured they are there.
To put it simply, the composition is complex even if the structure is simple.
There are several special features: three mini featurettes, the trailer for the film, and then several other inclusive trailers. None of this is very interesting, or even worth going over. However, there was one feature on the DVD that this examiner found amazingly amusing, and it is located in the “set-up” section of the menu. There you will find an English Audio option that describes the setting of each and every scene of the film, as if you were reading the film’s events out of a book. Although this “extra” is undoubtedly for those with poor or no eyesight, it definitely deserves a few minutes of your time if only to enjoy the clarity and thoroughness with which the voice covers onscreen events.
‘Trance’ has been rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images, and language. For more detailed information on questionable content within this film, click HERE.
‘Trance’ is available at the following retail stores and online markets:
Target — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Best Buy — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Walmart — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Barnes and Noble — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Amazon — DVD ; Blu-Ray
Feel free to comment below and continue the discussion, or even if you’d just like to suggest any films you would like to see reviewed in the future.