This film sort of fell under the radar when it came out in the spring, overshadowed by series blockbusters and heavily advertised numbers, but I think it deserves attention. It’s twisty, it makes you think, the acting is fabulous, there’s an excellent blend of action, drama, and psychoanalytical whatsits, and it fully succeeds in sucking you in. Heck, I watched it on a plane which is probably the hardest environment to “lose yourself” in but by George it did it. I thank you, Danny Boyle, for taking a delicious bite out of my eight-hour journey and I look forward to enjoying it again and again on a full screen with popcorn.
Trance addresses the important philosophical question that we all ponder over on some level: am I awake? You wonder if the main character is awake, you wonder if his friends are, you even wonder about the doctor, and by the end you’re questioning your own alertness too. In a very Inception-like way, Trace demands increasing levels of concentration as the movie progresses so that by the end you are either happy with all the confusion, totally lost and irritating your movie-partner with “what’s going on?”s, or are completely convinced that you just spent the last 101 minutes catching z’s in hypnosis.
What’s refreshing about this film? There are no “good guys”. Everyone has their faults and they are significant faults. As soon as you start liking a character they unveil a deplorable past, and if you hated a character from the beginning they’ll do something to win you over – for a little while at least, until you’re reminded of how greedy, bad tempered, selfish, and villainous they are. It was fresh not to trust the characters. You’re not rooting for the “hero” all the way through and James McAvoy sets you up for this from the very beginning with a “don’t try to be a hero” monologue.
There are several little ticks throughout the movie, like this speech, that keep appearing. These glitches don’t seem to affect the plot until all of the pieces come together and hit you with a slap-in-the-face “OH!” The whole technique forces you to watch very very closely. Are these clues that show when he’s under hypnosis? Was that important or just a coincidence? Little things like this make it a re-watchable movie, like Inception or Fight Club. In the beginning, before these ticks start nagging you, the film is easy to follow; he’s awake, he goes to therapy, the hypnotist puts him under, she wakes him up, he goes home. But after that the plot gets deeper and deeper and you’re never entirely sure what’s a dream and what’s reality, and perhaps more importantly, who’s watching your dreams?
James McAvoy does a superb job of being an unassuming auctioneer, a desperate amnesiac, an addict, a lovesick puppy, one of the guys, and of being absolutely off his rocker batcrap crazy. He develops a character with habits, making use of certain physical ticks, and his under-hypnosis demeanor (loose, smiley, letting the Scottish accent off the leash) was a total switch from his awake persona which tries its best to make the inner turmoil seem less…outer. His character is supported by a team of experts; from Vincent Cassel to Rosario Dawson, the performances were bang on for roles that required so much variety of character and a need to “speak with your eyes”. They’re all hiding something, but what is it? I strongly recommend you pick Trance for your next movie night and find out. Just make sure you’re awake enough to watch it.