Film Review: “Trance”

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Trance, 2013

dir. Danny Boyle


Mind-freaking-blowing. Unbelievable. Trance is absolutely fantastic, and you should watch it. Just go. Go.

Don’t believe me? Do you need me to convince you? Very well, then.

Now, I won’t say anything plot-related because I don’t want to spoil it for you – although the story itself is pretty straight-forward and I managed to figure out what happened thirty minutes in.

How I’m going to convince you, then? Four little reasons.

1) Danny Boyle (plus his incredible production team – seriously his D.o.P. needs a very large award – you go Anthony Dod Mantle!). I shouldn’t have to say more, but here we go. He shot this film whilst preparing for the Olympics opening ceremony and working on the National Theatre production ofFrankenstein (which you should also see, by the way), and still managed to make one of the most aesthetically pleasing films ever. Like, ever ever. London has never been so beautifully shot, all sharp edges and primary-secondary colours. This film makes London look stunning, modern and welcoming. Boyle used broad spaces, a lot of glass and mirrors, and there is this incredibly modern vibe. Definitely a twenty-first century London, which a lot of London-based productions don’t show.

Also, what Boyle does is turn a likely awkward and hard-to-portray story into something from which you just can’t look away. It’s gripping and nail-biting, mind-boggling and intense. There isn’t one boring second (which can be a bit trying at times, but works I think for what the story is trying to say, what is happening inside Simon’s mind) and I personally was just grasping the edge of my seat for all of the one-hundred-and-one minutes. I haven’t seen the script, so I can’t say for sure, but I’m confident that no-one else would have done what Boyle did with it, no-one would have got such beautiful shots and angles and just let the story bleed.

Convinced yet? No? Okay.

2) Vincent Cassel. He plays the criminal Franck, and I still don’t know how to feel about him. He’s likeable yet scary, and so very cool. He’s French, of course, so there’s that little accent in every word he speaks and it’s just incredibly sexy (plus you get to see him mostly naked, which is kinda sexy as well, I guess). Given that this is a story with no protagonist, only antagonistic characters, it is expected that it would become a bit dragged out and annoying, and you’d just hate all of them for being evil. And this isn’t even the case where you like the least evil because at least he’s not total mean. But this is not the case. I don’t think any of them are evil per se – yes, he’s a criminal, but it doesn’t make him the devil, it’s not like he’s Jim Moriarty – and Franck is frankly (pun intended) a cool guy. Cool as in James-Bond-cool, that is. I think Cassel has a lot to do with that, because when an actor understands what to do with the part he’s been given, it’s so much more refreshing. He makes this guy who is standing there, torturing another man, look awesome enough that you’d like to be friends with him but know you never could because he’s just too cool for you. Love it!

Need more?

3) Rosario Dawson. Beautiful, enigmatic, sexy Rosario ‘why-can’t-I-be-her’ Dawson. She’s the only female presence in the story, and carries it out brilliantly. And you get to see her in the nude as well, by the way. Basically, you never know if she can be trusted or not. Throughout the film, there is a lot of shift in trust, and sometimes it lands on her character, Elizabeth, sometimes it lands on James McAvoy’s Simon, and sometimes on Franck, but it’s always tricky. She has the power in the story, being the hypnotist, and all of the answers are within her grasp, for her to do as she pleases. Being such a strong character, with such duality to her, could feel too heavy and be a bit annoying, but it isn’t. Dawson is gorgeous and refreshing, her voice is like a trance itself, and it just brings it all together. I personally think she’s the strongest character in the film, and my favourite, because there is just so much of her just lying right below the surface but there is so much more as you peel away the layers. It’s a beautifully constructed character, and just superbly played by Dawson.

Last reason, then? Alright.

4) James McAvoy. Need I say more? He’s always, constantly brilliant in everything he does, but here it’s just knocking it right out of the park. There are sublet and obvious changes in his character Simon as the story goes on, and they’re not over-played or exaggerated, unless they have to be. McAvoy is good at that (ever since The Last King of Scotland. Have you seen that? It’s just magnificent), he’s good at playing characters you’re not sure you’re supposed to like, but you ending up doing anyway, even after it’s all over and proverbial fan is already covered with shit. It’s all in his eyes and the subtle ways in which he moves. I don’t know much about acting, but his is top notch, most certainly. I mean, it’s just your average acting at the start because he’s just your average guy, but by the end, the way Simon is conflicted and when he’s starting to remember everything, it’s just… Wow. Only word I can think of. Wow.

He’s naked here as well, if you need a little more incentive.

That’s all I have for you. Although you shouldn’t need more than these four reasons to go watch Trance right now.

review by Mariana Duarte


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