Special Dose of Buffa-Trance Movie Review

This is another film I didn’t see in theaters.   A film-addict colleague, Landon Burris, snapped it up but Danny Boyle’s latest film seemed promising and quite intriguing.  A thriller involving hypnosis and a stolen painting with a fine cast.  Well, it came out on Blu Ray/DVD this past week and I picked it up.  Here is my review.



Directed by Danny Boyle

Starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassell and Rosario Dawson.

Buffa’s Take

Twisty thrillers always employ a few rugs.  In order to keep you off balance and from using your vast movie knowledge, the twists must happen abruptly and intelligently.  Think of the viewer as the bull and the movie’s script, director and cast as the mariachi holding the ever moving sash.  We get really close and the rug is pulled out from beneath our feet.  The sash is whipped up into the sky and the bull runs through.  Well, let’s just say Danny Boyle employed a lot of rugs in his latest, Trance.

What does that word mean?  An infinite case of limbo or confusion would be my guess.  I’m not looking it up.  Where’s the fun in that?  Don’t do it before you watch the movie.  Boyle and writers Joe Aherne and John Hodge cooked up a fine acid trip of a movie here and one that you will never figure out where it’s really going before the very end.  Go ahead and try as you watch it.  Piece together the puzzle.

A seemingly regular joe art auctioneer(McAvoy) tries to make a play during a robbery of very expensive painting, thus getting a shot to the head from the butt of a shotgun, held by Franck(Cassell).   The only problem is when the criminal leave the bleeding man on the floor and runs away with his partners, he later finds out the painting isn’t in the case.  Only Simon knows where it is and he kind of has memory issues.   So comes into play a hypnotist named Elizabeth(Dawson).   The three people go through a series of dreams, states of mind and several aggressive interventions before we even have an idea of where the plot is taking its root from.   That is the genius of this movie.  You may have think I spoiled the film but I have only told you about the first 20 minutes.  Everything from the point of these three characters coming into connection with another as we see in the movie is all mind games and poker faced storytelling.  It’s also very very bloody well done.

Right when you think Franck is pure bad and not just a criminal, he softens up.  Right when we think Simon is all innocent, he shows a shade of gray.   Right when Elizabeth seems to be the damsel in distress, she spins around with her own tricks.   Then they revert back to their original spot.   Boyle throws so many twists and screen shots coded in red at your face you may need a drink at the middle.   Dawson bares more than just her soul and the movie spends the majority of its time soaked in dark black and red colors to keep your eyes coated in oxidation and lust.   Filmmakers aren’t stupid.   They know we have seen it all before and have to take extra measures to keep us hooked.  Trance’s genius is we care about every character and not just one.  We feel sympathy for lowly people because throughout the entire film, all we see is chess pieces being moved around.

Imagine a sandbox and feeling like the confused one each time you step on either side of the line in the sand.  Right when you think you figured out the plot, the rug gets pulled out from beneath you.  Are the characters playing each other or is this movie playing you?    With 20 minutes left, I tweeted that Boyle has only a few twists left to convince me this trip is worth it and that this is a good movie.   Well, when the end credits finally do roll after 101 well spent minutes building tension and a bit of romance, you will know its a great movie.  At least I did.  I didn’t feel tired.  I felt empowered.  I took a 20 minute drive after I returned this movie.  I blasted music like Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men and Baba O’Riley from the Who.    Great movies or hours of television make you create a need to think and decompress what was digested.   Good films can be enjoyed and discarded.    Movies like Trance require an introspection of why you got into the racket of film to begin with.  As a movie critic, this one is all pleasure and no work.

Trance reminded me of Inception and Vanilla Sky(one of Tom Cruise’s most underrated films).  A combination of those two doozies.   It’s a real trip that is redeemed by an unexpected romance at the heart of the story.   Right when you think it’s all thriller and no love, it flips a switch.   Credit Boyle and the writers with that one.  I feel like buying them a steak and drowning their minds in red wine so I can see what’s in there next.

Boyle can hop genres like a jungle cat.  He won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire but also created the weirdest drug addiction film in Trainspotting and one the best zombie stories from the past 20 years in 28 Days Later.   He directed the underrated “Save the Earth by Unlocking the Sun” sci-fi gem, Sunshine.  He combines all those different pieces here for in my eyes, his finest work yet.  Trance.  He drains the film in ultraviolet light, inserts some gangster swagger and goes heavy on the gruesome blood shots.  In the end, this is Boyle unplugged.  His cinema flair running on full blast.

The cast is aces.   McAvoy is becoming the latest ultra reliable Everyman in film by taking on a host of different characters.  He plays Simon as a tortured soul that has more to him than we think.  We just don’t know what causes him so much pain.   Cassell is one of those mastermind character actors that will get a Film-Addict spotlight soon enough.   His snake eyes looks and dirty ways are so good that he LOOKS every part without effort.   The real star making performance here comes from Dawson.  Without her performance, the film falls apart at the end.   She must convince us to follow until the end because her character is the moral compass of the story.   She bares her entire body in the film but more important bares her soul in the performance.  She makes it all work.

See this movie.  Rent it.  No bonus features on the disc because none are needed and would only spoil the feeling you get afterwards.   What great magician wants to come back on stage and explain their trick?   Boyle doesn’t and I don’t blame him at all.  Trance is one of the better movies of 2013.

Read Film-Addict critic Landon Burris’ take right here.


Thanks for reading and enjoy your next trip to the movies.


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