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Thursday, May 2, 2013 02:45 pm

Boyle’s Trance rewards the patient


How much you enjoy Danny Boyle’s Trance depends entirely on how much you like to be manipulated while watching a movie. And while it might be distracting to other viewers, they may end up thanking you if you were to bring pencil, paper and a penlight in order to make notes and keep track of the various twists and turns that the script from Joe Ahearne and John Hodge unleash on the viewer. Yes, there are moments when you won’t really know what’s going on or where things are headed, but for me, that’s what kept me intrigued. In an age in which so many films adhere to standard plotlines and any surprises are given away in the movie’s trailers, it was refreshing not to know exactly where things were headed.

A high-end auction house is the site of a heist gone wrong that occurs at the beginning of the film. An inside job spearheaded by Simon (James McAvoy) goes horribly wrong. He and a band of outlaws he’s indebted to, led by the mercurial Franck (Vincent Cassel), have their sights set on a masterpiece by Goya that they plan on stealing while it’s on the block. All seems to go as planned. Simon grabs the painting, as his duties include securing the most valuable items if a robbery is to occur, puts it in a secure case and hands it over to Franck, who doesn’t give away that he’s in cahoots with the thief by giving him a solid clunk on the head. Problem is, Simon hid the painting before handing over the case and afterwards, he can’t remember what he did with it.

To be sure, the whole amnesia plot device is flimsy but it does provide the opportunity for Ahearne and Hodge to tell their intriguing story. Ultimately, Franck takes Simon to Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), a therapist who specializes in hypnosis in the hopes she’ll be able to unlock his repressed memories. She soon deduces just what they’re up to and the fun begins. The doctor insists on being treated as an equal partner in the heist and gains the upper hand by manipulating Simon’s mind as well as those of his cohorts.

Boyle boldly traverses this journey into Hitchcock territory and he has great fun doing so, leading us down one blind alley after another until we’re not sure which of the characters should be trusted or even which memories Simon is recalling are true. The intentions of the characters turn on a dime here and while it might seem overtly manipulative, in the end it all reaches a logical, if improbably conclusion. To be sure, this is a movie that’s not for everyone. Each viewer’s tolerance for these sorts of shenanigans varies. However, for those willing to give themselves over to a master filmmaker and his misleading narrative machinations, the end result is a wholly satisfying one.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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