by Adam Riske
I have never seen another movie quite like Trance, which is interesting because it’s almost a mash-up of greatest hits from The Thomas Crown Affair, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Sleeping with the Enemy and every film noir you’ve ever seen. It’s a mess, but an entertaining mess. The bad news is how clumsily the movie comes together. At the end of the day, Trance is like watching a Danny Boyle guitar solo, where the solo is more important than the song. It’s exciting in the moment, but by the end the creator is dripping with flop sweat.
The plot in brief: Simon (James McAvoy) is an art gallery auctioneer who is assaulted by Franck (Vincent Cassel) and his crew of thieves during a botched robbery of a priceless Goya painting. Simon stashes the painting during the robbery, but the assault leads to him having amnesia. Once Simon comes to, Franck re-enters the picture demanding the location of the painting. With Simon unable to remember, the thieves employ a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to dig into Simon’s subconscious and make him remember where he hid the Goya. And then come the twists.
Trance is very much a puzzle movie, similar to Side Effects from a couple of months ago. Both movies also deal with amnesia (on the basis of these two movies, it’s a condition one of every three people have). I think I like them both about the same. Whereas Side Effects decides to become a pedestrian thriller instead of a great drama, Trance has no other option than to be a souped-up heist movie. It’s a style-over-substance movie for sure, albeit one that is ambitious in its execution.
The hypnosis aspects don't work because they're too manipulative. Boyle uses them for a whole slew of narrative shortcuts. He does whatever he wants, even if it defies the movie’s internal logic. How much you love or hate Trance depends on whether or not you are willing to go along with it.