by George Sax
A consumer alert is probably in order at the outset of our consideration of Danny Boyle’s new art-heist movie, Trance. For the first 10 or so minutes, the music score’s volume may endanger your hearing as its hard-driving, bumpety-bump synth music almost overwhelms anything else on the soundtrack, including dialogue. After several minutes, it flattens out to a less hammering electronic drone that still aurally oppresses. Both of them must exceed the safety limit of 85 decibels.
But this interference soon goes away and the dialogue becomes easily intelligible. This doesn’t mean you’ll be able to make much sense out of what’s going on in Trance. Boyle and scripters Joe Ahearne and John Hodge seem to be challenging you to stop trying to really understand their movie’s pretzel-twisted, involuted narrative, encouraging you to stop trying to track its hairpin plot turns and agitated, tricked-up visuals. You’re encouraged to give yourself up to its careening, caroming momentum. Whether or not you can handle all this, it’s a good bet you won’t succeed at working this movie out through mere intellect.
At the very beginning, amid the din, Simon (James McAvoy), an art auctioneer in London, addresses us to explain some of the stringent protections put in place during an auction, none of them sufficient, of course, to prevent him from helping Franck (Vincent Cassell) and his little gang to invade the premises and steal a Goya painting as it goes on the block. The Goya is certainly stolen, but the gang ends up with an empty frame, and, after a nasty bang on the head, Simon can’t remember what he did with the work. When interrogation and a bout of severe physical abuse fail, Franck sends him off to a Harley Street hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to plumb his subconscious for the information. Some of you may be pleased to learn that this isn’t all that gets plumbed, but you’re not counting on the convoluted consequences that will probably sap most voyeuristic interest.
Rest assured, you will discover what happened to the Goya, more or less. But if you can figure out just why, you’re better than this reporter.
The youthfully sweet-faced McAvoy is credible playing nastily against type, but Dawson recites her lines in a plodding, leaden style. Cassell comes off best. His Franck becomes the most interesting, and the closest to a sympathetic character.
Trance may be a labor of passion for Boyle, but if so, his fascination seems to be spurred by a love of cinema and his own manipulative facility with it. It doesn’t seem to extend to the audience’s needs and interests.
Watch the trailer for Trance
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