Trance Blu-Ray Review: Boyle Keeps True Even If Film Falters

If you have no other expectations walking into a Danny Boyle film, you at least know you’re going to get a unique and original experience, and Trance doesn’t change the fact. Ultimately, this is a film that may actually suffer for its effort to put together odd spins, because it can’t follow through as effectively as it thinks it can, but for most of its run you can hardly help but enjoy the trip you’re on.

Simon (James McAvoy) has managed to get himself into a bit of a jam, and he’s now in the supreme fix of inability to extricate himself from it – he can’t remember anything. It doesn’t seem like he should be having any trouble at all, really, but such is the way of spinning webs. He’s just a simple, hopeful auctioneer at a house that is selling incredibly expensive art… how could it go wrong?

Franck (Vincent Cassel), on the other hand, has things all worked out, and his plan to steal a painting worth upwards of $20 million goes exactly according to his surprisingly uncomplicated plan, except that at the end of it he somehow doesn’t have the painting.

As events progressed, the only possibility is that Simon did something with the painting, but he took a nasty knock on the head, and doesn’t remember anything. We’ve tortured him sufficiently to rule out the idea that he’s just making this up, and now there’s a lot of money floating around somewhere, and no way to get it. In a desperate move, we hire Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to hypnotize him and try to extract the information.

We soon learn from Franck, and coming as a big surprise to Simon, that Simon was in on the theft, and his apparent double-cross has now gone horribly wrong. Adding to the complications, Elizabeth tells them that there is going to have to be a lot of working together in order to get Simon to a place where his mind is willing to spill the beans.

This starts us on a crazy ride as a band of thugs try to overcome their urge to kill one of their own who tried to rip them off, all while apparently dancing around to the curious methods Elizabeth undertakes to reassure Simon that he isn’t about to die. This also leads to an awkward amount of close proximity, and it all becomes a rabbit hole that no one can predict.

It works amazingly well, once you get past the general idea of hypnosis working at all, or at least working anything like this, and the story pulls you in enough to allow you to run with it. McAvoy is surprisingly engaging, considering what an odd character he’s trying to pull off, and Cassel is up to his usual standards. Dawson can’t actually hang in this sort of company, but she manages enough not to become truly distracting.

The trouble is that you eventually get to the end, and if there were ever a film where that fact alone became a failing, this is it. Boyle is the sort of filmmaker that seems to embody the idea that, “it isn’t the destination, it’s the journey,” and I’ve long had the impression that it is how he feels about making films as well. Trance’s theory is as fascinating as any of the best mental explorations we’ve seen turned into films, but it is all theory, and only a cursory effort at working it into a story. It feels like a conversation, not an automatic death sentence in itself, but in a sense that doesn’t come together. As though we gathered a bit of wool for a while and then decided we had to twist it around until there was something we could call a plot.

Once it heads to that point, and it does so in something of a rush, it actually becomes quite obvious exactly where we’re going, and that undermines the foundations of everything that has been pulling us along to that point. When we’re trying to figure things out, and sitting in with this odd crew as we all try to piece together what could be going on with Simon’s mind, the film is amazing, and Boyle delivers – both as storyteller and visual artist – something that should not be missed. But, when it comes together, and like the last five minutes of a TV crime drama we get things thrown at us just to say, “Look, how clever a puzzle I’ve constructed,” it falls apart, and leaves you wanting.

Luckily, and as you might expect of Danny Boyle, the negative doesn’t manage to completely tear away the experience you’ve had getting there. It’s a saving grace that few other directors could have managed, because the abilities inherent in the film (possibly overlooked by many, so spin that into the recommendation) are too impressive.

That leaves a final verdict that is as difficult to come up with as a plot to this rambling lecture on the mind. I have to recommend it, but that doesn’t mean I have any idea where you’ll fall. You’re as likely to find the distractions and faults too much as you are to give them no weight at all. Either way, it’s one that should get a chance, and I though I can’t rate it highly, I have to recommend you check it out. Available already in countless forms, you can watch this film online today.


Trance Blu-Ray Review

The Blu-Ray probably outpaces the film, depending on your take on things. Loaded with bonuses, and many that are real treats, you may spend a lot of time here.

Of course, the video and audio quality are what you’d expect from something with a decent budget and names… that didn’t break any box office records. It’s quite good, and up to today’s general standards, but there are a few moments that will raise the ire of the especially picky.

The featurettes put together a good look at things, and if you enjoy the film you’re going to be happy looking behind-the-scenes, and at featurettes detailing work on the script, Boyle’s “Film Noir” effort, and the deleted scenes. A couple trips with hypnotherapy might not add much, but they’re still a bit fun.

You also can’t miss the Retrospective featurette, even if you aren’t particularly a fan, because going over Boyle’s resume is interesting, no matter how you look at it.

It’s a movie that would have made great use of a commentary track, but we manage to make up for with bonuses that are a lot more detailed than most, and you can tell there was someone behind things who didn’t want to just throw in a bunch of meaningless ideas in order to say you have a lot of special features. The Final Rewrite itself is worth the price of the Blu-Ray, going over script construction (even if I don’t like the final version of the script).


Special Features:

BD Exclusive Features

  •  Theatrical Feature Blu-ray
  •  Deleted Scenes
  •  Trance Unraveled (Easter Egg)
  •  The Power of Suggestion-Making Trance
  •  Kick Off
  •  Danny’s Film Noir
  •  Hypnotherapy
  •  The Look
  •  The Final Rewrite
  •  Danny Boyle Retrospective
  •  Short Film: EUGENE by Spencer Susser
  •  Theatrical Trailer
  •  UV Copy

DVD Exclusive Features

  •  Theatrical Feature
  •  Hypnotherapy
  •  The Look
  •  The Power of Suggestion-Making Trance
  •  The Final Rewrite
  •  Theatrical Trailer



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Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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