When Inception, Eternal Sunshine, & Ocean's 11 Have A 3-Way

Trance (2013)
A Review By Ben Hunter
3½ Out Of 5 Stars
April 5, 2013

"Get to the Point Ben!" If it's not your first date, you both have known each other for a little while, and can sit through an entire movie in comfortable/un-awkward loud silence from the theater, without feeling the need to verbally engage each other throughout in hopes to keep the "spark" alive so you can maybe then "spark" a little something after the movie ... then this just might be what you should select to see that evening.  

Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) takes Simon (James McAvoy), and the rest of us, through hypnosis to discover the location of the hidden painting. 

Everything that comprises who we are, the very fiber of our being figuratively, is comprised of everything that we’ve ever seen, heard, spoken, written, etc.  We’re constantly piecing and stringing together an identity through a series of memories to figure out how to live in this world.  It’s a tough job, as Dr. Lamb (Rosario Dawson) states in Danny Boyle’s latest thriller Trance. 

If our memories are damaged, our personality is also damaged.  If our memories disappear, say with something such as Alzheimer’s, people say the body is still there but the person is gone.  We’re nothing if we stop being able to continually loop together our choice of memories … for they define who we are!  Spoken well by Boyle himself who went on to elaborate that our memories define us, but what we remember, isn’t necessarily the “truth” …

Franck (Vincent Cassel) realizes he's just a pawn in a much bigger game.
Simon (James McAvoy) is an Art Auctioneer in London who gets mixed up with some thieves who try to steal one of the expensive paintings that’s being auctioned.  To protect the painting from the thieves and going against orders that no painting is worth someone’s life, Simon steals the painting and even stands up to the head thief Franck (Vincent Cassel).  After encountering a mini brawl with Franck, Simon forgets where he hid the painting (he was clocked really hard on the noggin).  So Franck forces Simon to go to a hypnotist Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Dawson) to help him remember where he hid the painting. 

Hypnosis is being used more and more in society today.  Back in the 70’s it was allowed as admissible evidence in court.  The subconscious is quite complex and can be very deceiving stated Boyle who also affirmed with a reporter that because it’s so complex, we will often be completely sure about something that happened to us … and then find out that we were dead wrong!  So, did I mention that if Inception, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, & Ocean’s Eleven went out partying one night, had a little too much to drink, one thing lead to another, and … Well you get the point, you’d get Trance.  With Inception definitely taking charge, Eternal Sunshine nurturing and housing the child, and Ocean’s contributing a little but no one wanted it around afterwards so it only gets a tiny piece of the credit, you’d then get a feel for how you’d view Trance.   This is what to expect to encounter as Elizabeth takes us into the mind of Simon, to find the painting! 
Elizabeth goes from femme fatale to helpless
victim, in Danny Boyle's latest mind bender!

Dot dot dot, a really good mask of how to remake Inception.  That’s the fine print that I’d put at the end of that last paragraph.  As I said, Inception would take the lead as Boyle tries to twist our minds with this twisted plot.  Nothing is what it seems.  Good guys are bad guys, bad guys are good guys; characters who we associate with, we turn from and vice versa.  Eternal Sunshine would nurture us through the mine of Simon as we go through the hypnosis and discover new details and change sides of who to route for.  Ocean’s would have little to do with the baby, maybe give it its hair color, so some association but very little.  “Yeah they try to rob the place and steal the painting right?  That’s kind of like Ocean’s”. 

Danny Boyle works with writer John Hodges, the writer of Boyle’s first film, Shallow Grave.  Just like Shallow Grave, Trance is a story that centers around three strong leads.  It’s just that you don’t know who to route for, that the selling point you’d hear about the film or even see it on the poster.  This was a downfall for me, and why it weakens this film in my humble opinion more and more when the common person that reviews Trance is constantly comparing it to Inception.  This is because we care about Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception.  James McAvoy is an extremely talented and a likeable person.  So when Trance is over, we’re supposed to have a second thought about him and maybe think about shifting our feelings for Rosario Dawson, the part femme fatale (who looks AMAZINGLY beautiful completely naked in this story) part helpless, innocent woman who’s a victim of abuse.  Or maybe even reside our feelings for the thief, Vincent Cassel, who we automatically assume is the villain of the story but come to realize is a pawn being played in this game.  After we sift through all of these plots, storylines, and emotions, we’re “supposed” to feel a particular way about McAvoy.  But with his persona in real life, I don’t think we feel that way as much as we’re probably “supposed” to feel about him.  Which is why as much as I like the guy, he wasn’t right for this part.  I hear Michael Fassbender turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with other projects that he was working on.  HE WOULD’VE BEEN PERFECT FOR THIS!  For a couple of days I couldn’t put my finger on it as to why I was turned off by this film.  It’s been a couple of days now since I saw the film and it wasn’t until a fellow film critic put it into words about the likeability aspect with McAvoy that it finally clicked and I could now write my review, a not so “likeable” feeling for Trance, probably because I’m not on the Inception bandwagon either; and this is why, the character development and the emotional involvement that comes with it. 

Things get twisted as we journey through Simon's mind!
But this is classic Danny Boyle, twisted, freaky, and far out!  Any fan of his earlier work will probably enjoy sitting through this next thing of his; and then forgetting about it a couple days later to start thinking about Danny Boyle all over again when his next thing comes out.  Trance is a mind bender, but doesn’t over do it like those in which it’s compared to.  You don’t have to watch it again to understand what’s happening.  If you pay attention all the way through, it should all click in the end.  One of the things I liked about this film.  But some people like the ones you have to keep viewing to truly respect the film, as this is what true talent and quality are made of.  Yeah, maybe; but sometimes maybe not; Trance isn’t trying to win any awards so comparing it to films that have been highly recognized and make up our more prevalent memories is probably the downfall of this film.  This is because after coming out of the trance while viewing Trance, the series of memories we have of it will surely fade away as we learn to live our lives without it, filling our state of being with better memories of better films. 

Until maybe Danny Boyle wins another Oscar, but hopefully much deserved that time around.

Thriller, 101 Minutes, R
Written by: John Hodges and Joe Ahearne
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Cast: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, & Vincent Cassel  

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