trance movie review

‘Trance’ Review: Can James Mcavoy’s Hypnotize Us?

Trance Movie Review

Danny Boyle is a very stylistic filmmaker. Now, with ‘Trance’, all narrative structure gets thrown out the window since we are dealing with the unconscious. This is like getting in the ring with Iron Mike Tyson and at the last minute the ref says “Oh ya and there are no rules.” Either run or hold on tight.


Simon (James McAvoy) is an art auctioneer coordinating an inside job to steal an expensive painting. However, when Simon gets hit on the head during the heist, he forgets where he stores the stolen painting. With a group of thugs, led by Franck (Vincent Cassel), roughing up Simon looking for their payday, Simon resorts to hypnosis. When Simon’s hypnotherapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), gets involved in the heist, things get even more complicated. Somewhere deep in Simon’s repressed memories is the key to finding the painting, the only question is who will be the first to get the information out?


‘Trance is the type of movie where you sit silently in your seat after the show is finished and you have no idea how you feel about the film. You have to think about it for a while and let it marinate in your brain. Even after a few hours, it still has me wondering.

‘Trance’ falls into both the Sci-Fi and Thriller genres, so it suffers from two common problems that coincide with those types of movies. Along with most Sci-Fi, you have weird forced dialogue; the kinds of things that people just wouldn’t say to one another. Its like they are just talking out loud to make sure that the audience knows the plot. With the thriller genre, ‘Trance’ runs the risk of trying to outdo itself. It tries to be so complex that it quickly straddles the border of incredibly smart and questionable writing. Or as ‘South Park’ and I like to call it: “’Inception’s’ Dream within a Dream within a Dream within a Dream” syndrome. I believe ‘Inception’ pulled it off very well, and while ‘Trance’s’ plot makes sense, it just doesn’t give you the same satisfaction. The script is very thinly written, but it doesn’t drag down the film too much because of the excitement.

I am a huge fan of Danny Boyle’s earlier films: ‘Shallow Grave’, ’28 Days Later…’ ‘Sunshine’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, and ‘127 hours.’ (Still haven’t seen ‘Trainspotting’) Boyle has a stamp he puts on each of his films. He and his crew have really settled into their own style, which consists of great lighting with crazy psychedelic colors and some awesomely canted angles. Seriously, if you Google “canted angles”, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ comes up as the second entry after the Wikipedia definition.  So, I think its safe to say that these traits are kind of his trademarks.

As far as the acting goes, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great; the dialogue written for first 45 minutes had something do with that. The visual effects where fantastic, though rarely used.  Including one scene, I won’t spoil it, but when you see the film you will know what I’m talking about. Even, the score by Rick Smith was perfectly hypnotizing for the psychological thriller. (I’m very glad Boyle decided to not go with A.R. Rahman, who was great for ‘Slumdog’, but was the wrong choice to ‘127 hours’) Overall, the film succeeds because of Boyle’s fun, carefree attitude and the film keeping the audience at the edge of their seats.


Very stylistic. Never a dull moment. OK acting. Rosario Dawson gets naked.  The film works because of the fast-pace and the creativity. The film struggles because although the plot makes sense, it’s still a bit of a stretch despite it’s wild finish.  This should not be confused with some of Mr. Boyle’s great achievements, but it is still a fun film if your brain can keep up.

Review Overview

Movie Melt Score - 7.5


An extremely stylish film with a creative and fast paced plot, that never gets dull. It finishes with a shocking bang, but is full of flaws and strange moments. Not Boyle's best work, but a entertaining ride.

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