Posted April 30, 2013 by William Dunmyer in Thriller

Trance: Stylish, Shallow Thriller About Hypnosis

Danny Boyle’s “Trance” is a stylish, rather shallow film about the power of hypnosis. Boyle’s major concern on this project was to create a great soundtrack; he certainly achieved that. The music is fantastic. My recommendation: skip the movie and buy the soundtrack.

I wish Boyle had put as much work into the story as he put into the music and cinematography. “Trance” looks great and sounds great, but the story is shallow. There are lots of twists and turns in the plot, but no real depth.

A likable James McAvoy plays an employee at an upper-echelon auction house in London. His job is to prevent multi-million-dollar artwork from getting stolen. Early in the film, there is a well-organized heist ending in a hand-to-hand battle between McAvoy and the thieves’ leader, played with almost no characterization by Vincent Cassel. (Cassel appears to have been hired simply because Boyle wanted the chief thug to look intelligent and French. That’s the superficial level on which the film operates. Cassel is almost an extra, despite having quite a bit of screen time.)

Cassel knocks McAvoy out and grabs the case containing the painting. But mysteriously, the case ends up containing an empty frame. The canvas itself is gone. Like a magic trick. Eventually this is explained, and it’s not that big a deal. McAvoy had simply used a razor blade to cut the canvas out of the frame before inserting the frame in the case. He then absconded with the rolled-up canvas.

But where’s the canvas? That becomes the central mystery. He claims not to remember what he did with it, and he appears to be telling the truth. Did he suffer a brain injury during the scuffle with Cassel? Or did he suppress the memory due to all the anxiety and fear?

Enter Rosario Dawson, playing a professional, high-end hypnotist. Her job is to help him uncover the memory. But complications ensue. I won’t spoil the surprises, which are fairly good. I’ll just say that there’s more going on with the hypnotist than meets the eye, and these secrets are gradually revealed.

The problem is that through all the plot turns, I lost interest in the characters. I just didn’t care who ended up being the good guy or the bad guy. The characters were such thin caricatures that it’s hard to care about any of them. Every time Boyle had an opportunity to develop a character, he turned up the music to deafening levels to drown out the dialogue. “Trance” is more a music video than a film.

There is interesting subject matter. If Boyle had spent more time in story development, this could have turned into a great film. But Boyle kept everything at such a superficial level that the end-product is rather underwhelming.

William Dunmyer

William Dunmyer is a lifelong cinephile who fell in love with movies at about the age of 5. He lives in New York City.