By Wilson Morales
There comes a time when critical success for a filmmaker comes to a halt, especially if he or she has been on a good roll. While Tyler Perry can be critic-proof and have his films do well at the box office, there are some filmmakers, regardless of how much or less their films make, have been the recipient of favorable critical responses. Danny Boyle happens to be one of those guys. With recent films that included the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire and then the Oscar nominated film 127 Hours, he’s simply been on a good role. With his frequent collaborators cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and composer Rick Smith, his films are colorful, moving, and emotional. But, with his latest film, Trance, the writing may be the undoing of what could have been a masterpiece. As stylistic and mind-bending as it is, it’s also too cute for its own good.
James McAvoy plays Simon, an art gallery curator who’s the inside man to a heist orchestrated by ruthless art thief Franck (Vincent Cassell). Rather than carrying out the plan and steal the valuable Goya painting, Simon, without explanation, deviates from it. This causes Franck to hit Simon on the head, resulting in memory loss.
As the only one who knows where the stolen painting is, and after pain and torture fails to jog some answers, in comes hypnotherapist Dr. Elizabeth Lamb to help Simon.
Although she’s been hired to unlock Simon’s memory, somewhere along the way, Elizabeth gets in too deep and wants in on the action. Her involvement not only presents a possible love triangle, between herself and Simon and Franck, but further complicates matters when hidden agendas become exposed.
Every piece to a puzzle must have an endgame. While getting from point A to point Z may be an uneasy task, there has to still be enough clues laid out to prevent a long journey. In ‘Trance,’ the writing went beyond explanation. We’ve seen our share of films that came with clever twists such as ‘The Usual Suspects’ and Chris Nolan’s ‘Inception,’ but the one presented here leaves plenty of room for error. Joe Hearn and John Hodge’s script has one too many red herrings that leave viewers, after being dazzled visually by Mantle’s cinematography, knowing at some point that they are being toyed with.
While the performances by the three leads are solid, specifically Dawson as the femme fatale, the kenetic storytelling doesn’t allow the audience any room to breathe and understand what exactly is going on.
Boyle’s films usually never run out of steam and while ‘Trance’ is at times moving, provocative, entertaining and presents an interesting conundrum, there aren’t enough tracks to keep the film from maintaining a steady pace of clarity.