Trance Review

Article Header Trance Movie Review

From the Director of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire comes the reality twisting heist thriller, Trance. From Fox Searchlight Pictures, the film stars James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel. Is this another fine example of Danny Boyle story telling or is it just a Inception ripoff?


Simon works as an auctioneer at a very prestigious English art house. A rare Francisco de Goya painting called “Witches in the Air” is about to be sold for a predicted twenty million pounds. On the day of the sale, the auction house is infiltrated by thieves after the painting, but due to many safety protocols, Simon is prepared and takes the Goya off the floor to be stored in the time locked safe. As he is moved through the back hallways, Simon and two guards are stopped by one of the thieves with a shotgun. For his own safety, he hands over the painting but then sustains a major head injury from being knocked out by the butt of the shotgun.  The criminals make a daring escape back to their hideaway. The men start to celebrate their brilliant heist only for it to be premature as the Goya painting has been cut out of the frame.

After many surgeries to drain the hemorrhaging in his head, Simon recovers, but with a severe case of amnesia. The criminals are waiting for Simon and want their painting. They kidnap Simon and start ripping out his fingernails as the attempt to obtain the location of it. Simon isn’t a total victim though, because the heist was actually an inside job elaborated by him. But fearing for his life, he double crossed the criminals until he knew he was safe. Simon was deep in debt to the wrong people due to a gambling addiction so he went to a gangster named Franck who paid it all off. Franck believes that maybe hypnotherapy may be able to unlock his memories, so he takes Simon to see hypnotherapist, Elizabeth Lamb. Will Elizabeth unlock Simon’s mind to save him, or will Frank and his boys kill them all and leave with the painting?

Elizabeth and the gangsters wants what's in Simon's head.
Elizabeth and the gangsters wants what’s in Simon’s head.


Ever since I saw Trainspotting back in college, I’ve really enjoyed the film making of Danny Boyle. It was truthful and raw and even though it slightly glamorized heroine addiction with its humor, it showed the terror with its in your face reality.  Needless to say, I was a little intrigued to attend my screening of Trance. Initially though from watching the trailer, I thought that it may have been a ripoff of Christopher Nolan’s Inception that I absolutely loved. After seeing Trance, the only thing I can compare it to Inception is that it is a total mind fuck of a movie that makes the audience continually guess what’s going on until the final big reveal at the end. Films like Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Total Recall, Fight Club and even Jacob’s Ladder do a brilliant job of leaving clues throughout the movie that on first viewing you don’t initially catch. That’s what Danny Boyle does with Trance as he leaves a trail of bread crumbs to the ultimate adventure into the rabbit hole of Simon’s mind. I was constantly trying to figure out who was who and actually what was going on only to be wrong at the end and I wasn’t disappointed by it. The movie looked beautiful and the techno style house music pounded through the speakers with an upbeat tempo to match your own heartbeat as the intensity of the film increased with its graphic violence and questionably gratuitous nudity. It’s gritty and in your face from the opening heist to what’s in my opinion, a fantastic twist ending. I would not at all be surprised if Danny Boyle recruited a well renowned clinical psychologist not only as an onset expert, but to make sure the film properly messes with people’s heads.

Hello, I am Alex...err Simon, your humble Narrator.
Hello, I am Alex…err Simon, your humble Narrator.

James McAvoy plays the amnesiac wanna be thief, Simon. Since he played Wesley in Wanted, I have really liked him as an actor, and REALLY liked him as Charles Xavier in X-Men: First Class, which was my favorite superhero movie in 2011.  McAvoy becomes the movie’s narrator as he talks to the audience in the same way as Ewan McGregor’s Renton did in Trainspotting. Though the eyes of Simon, you have to attempt to figure out the fine line between the trance and reality, or even if Simon is truly the one under hypnosis. McAvoy has a specific child like look about him that makes him believable as the victim, but then his devilish grin and rage flips the switch in the audience’s perception. This is one of the reasons that it’s hard to determine reality and imagination at certain points of the movie.

Rosario Dawson plays the hypnotherapist, Elizabeth Lamb. Her calming voice as she places Simon in a trance does the same to the audience. She takes over the narration duties from McAvoy during these sequences. With the movie being rated R for violence and nudity, Dawson is very brave to be completely nude in the film, and while some might find it gratuitous, it was also an essential part of the audience’s manipulation. Not only does her character’s intelligence as a therapist controls the others in the film, she uses he feminine power over the males in the movie to get what she wants. Certain points of the film, you’ll be guessing her motivation to help Simon, but then you’ll be elated in the finale when you find out. I really liked her character, but to be honest, it’s because I really like Rosario as an actress. She has a certain comedic style, mannerisms and vocal cadence that in my opinion lights up the screen.

Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) tries to help Simon locate this painting.
Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) tries to help Simon locate this painting.

Rounding off the pseudo criminal/love triangle is Vincent Cassel as Franck (Yes, that is how it’s spelled). Ever since he played burglar François Toulour in Ocean’s Thirteen, Cassel has become a great antagonist, especially in Black Swan. He’s cunning and ruthless, but in some specific points in the movie, it’s hard to know if the is the torturer or the victim himself. This once again goes to the director’s manipulation of the three main characters in the movie and the perceived reality.

I had a blast with Trance. It had hints to other English gangster movies like Snatch, but the reality twisting of Inception. I was asked how I would compare it to previous Danny Boyle films and that is tough to answer because each one of his films takes place in different settings with different genres. To make it easier, I’d compare them to the films I mentioned earlier in the review. I’d rank Fight Club first, with Inception in a close second and Trance in a slightly distant third. I highly recommend checking out Trance when it widely releases this weekend. It has the fantastic story telling of an independent film, but with the raw sophistication of previous Boyle films. If you love having your mind messed with, you’ll love Trance. It has muscle and initiative with beautiful and stunning sequences that become a thrilling roller coaster of grey matter.

Rating Banner 4-5

In Theaters: UK Release March 25, 2013 / Limited Release: April 5, 2013 / Wide Release: April 12, 2013
Runtime: 1 hour 41 minutes
Rating: R (for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images, and language)
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, Tuppence Middleton
Genre: Thriller, Remake
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Official Site: