Iâ€™d like to think Iâ€™m a fairly smart guy (when it comes to movies, not calculus or anything like that), but "Trance" eludes me. "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle creates a puzzle in which each piece is another, smaller puzzle, and every couple of minutes, the pieces change shape, and you have to start all over again. Itâ€™s a fairly exhilarating experience at first, but by the end, that exhilaration turns into exhaustion. But itâ€™s still an experience.
The movie certainly gets off to a crackling start. Simon (James McAvoy) is a fine art auctioneer and the inside man for a band of thieves, led by Franck (Vincent Cassel from "Black Swan"), hoping to steal a valuable Goya painting. He manages to nab the painting, but during the heist, he gets knocked in the head and wakes up forgetting where he put the prize.
After politely asking and then not-so politely pulling out Simonâ€™s fingernails, Franck proposes a new solution: sending Simon to a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) who will unlock the secrets in his brain. However, there are more secrets tucked away inside Simonâ€™s noggin than just the location of the painting, and the hypnotist might have her own motives for tinkering around with Simonâ€™s brain.
"Trance" hooks the audience almost immediately with a furious flurry of excitement. Boyle drops the viewers right into Simonâ€™s brain as he talks about the history of art thievery, the security measures of his establishment and how he intends to foil them. With its dark wry humor, criminal underworld menace and snappy pace, the first act plays like a Guy Ritchie caper that graduated from the grimy streets to the art house, mixed with a healthy serving of Boyleâ€™s signature kinetic edits and saturated color scheme.Â
When the film moves into the hypnotistâ€™s ĂĽber-modern office and Simonâ€™s amnesia-addled mind, however, it turns into an even more complicated version of "Inception." Writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge (the latter wrote many of Boyleâ€™s early hits, including "Shallow Grave" and "Trainspotting") continually pile on the twists, backstabbings, dream realities and revelations.
Itâ€™s a fun, intricate little puzzle at first, but after a while, the constant plot turns and detours leave the viewer disoriented and exhausted. It gets progressively more difficult to care about our characters (all well-acted, mind) and whatâ€™s happening when the movieâ€™s maze-like trail of breadcrumbs continually leads to dead ends. When Boyle and companyâ€™s befuddling roller coaster eventually chugs to a stop, they seem aware that theyâ€™ve lost most of the audience, forcing the script to spend most of the last act having Dawson sloppily explain what the hell just happened.
The saddest part? Even with Dawson holding the audienceâ€™s hand, true answers are few and unsatisfying.
The ride ends up not particularly engrossing, but thanks to Boyleâ€™s direction, "Trance" is at least interesting. Every time the storyâ€™s convolutions threaten to drag the movie down, he summons a memorable image or sequence Ââ€“ a man getting buried alive, a corpse talking despite missing everything from the nose up â€“ that made me wish I cared more.
His hyperstylized visuals also actually fit with the filmâ€™s surreal mental hijinx, unlike in his last film, "127 Hours," in which his antsy storytelling and visuals clashed with the isolation and tedium of Aron Ralstonâ€™s experience. There, he was a burden. Here, heâ€™s a boon. In the hands of a less adventurous director, "Trance" couldâ€™ve been a dull exercise in confused frustration instead of an intriguing exercise in confused frustration.
I imagine "Trance" falls into the category of movies that make more sense after repeated showings, but frankly, it doesnâ€™t leave me with much reason to return. A good puzzle makes you want to finish the entire thing and fill in every gap, even when you know what the final image will be. "Trance" is a puzzle you tinker around with for a while and, after putting a few border pieces together, put it back in the box. A movie should make you feel more than just a sense of accomplishment.Â
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Nov. 25, 2015
Last night, Marvel revealed the first trailer - and footage overall - of next summer's "Captain America: Civil War" on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and Marvel, take my money right now please.
Published Nov. 24, 2015
Google has found little ways to have fun with search - and not just by drawing its name in funny, entertaining ways based on the day. Its latest nifty secret comes from a galaxy far, far away.
Published Nov. 24, 2015
I've got chills; they're multiplying, thanks to my recent discovery of "Grease Live," a live musical and sure-to-be hate-watch event Fox is putting on next year starring Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens.
Published Nov. 21, 2015
After the Packers' loss Sunday afternoon, people took to the Internet to rage. And that's totally fine and legitimate. But some of it left me sadder than Mason Crosby's kick. So here are some quick guidelines that we can hopefully follow for next Sunday to make Packer Nation a little more worthy of pride.
Published Nov. 19, 2015
For most people, bad exercise tapes and other '80s excrement would seem weird. But for Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett ... well, it's still weird. But they love it, and for over a decade, they've been curating these VHS kings of kookiness for their touring Found Footage Festival.
Published Nov. 18, 2015
After a doubtlessly thorough investigation, People Magazine has made its annual dismount from Mount Sinai - via "Jimmy Kimmel Live" last night - to declare the sexiest man alive in 2015: David Beckham.
Published Nov. 17, 2015
This morning, GQ published an interview between former Grantland head and future HBO sports talking head Bill Simmons and President Obama, and one part - concerning what sports figure the current president views himself as - will catch Packer Nation's ear.
Published Nov. 15, 2015
Perhaps my first staycation experience - in Tosa of all places - would give me a new glimpse of an old, familiar neighborhood. It didn't, but there are reasons people seek out a suburban hotel, especially this time of year.
Published Nov. 14, 2015
A man's visit to Milwaukee took a sour turn recently when he claims he discovered offensive messages hidden in a sculpture in Shorewood. The supposed messages can be found on the statue's left leg.
Published Nov. 12, 2015
"Family Feud" arrives this month to audition families for a chance to answer potentially awkward questions with potentially even more awkward responses, likely embarrass yourself on national TV and maybe cash, too.