Film Review: Trance (2013)


Last July, acclaimed film director Danny Boyle wowed the world with his breath-taking Opening Ceremony show for the London 2012 Olympics. He went from a UK great to a national treasure overnight and everyone was pleased with his vision of our country. Now, in his first film project since that great night last summer, Boyle ventures into yet another distinctly different genre for his films. He’s done zombies (‘28 Days Later’), apocalyptic (‘Sunshine’), family-friendly (‘Millions’) even an Oscar winner (‘Slumdog Millionaire’), and now he branches out into the psychological-thriller, and it’s a little bit special.

Trance’, starts with a pacy 10 minute opening that establishes our hero, James McAvoy’s art auctioneer, and sees his employers robbed of a very pricey work of art. It’s fast, fearless and doesn’t let up, with Vincent Cassell’s bad gangster boss sneering his way through his lines, and proving to be a formidable opponent. After this, things get tricky. A bash to the head sees McAvoy’s character suffer from amnesia, not being able to remember events surrounding the heist.

With the story and characters established very early on, with Roasrio Dawson’s mysterious therapist introduced to the main trio, alongside Cassell’s henchmen, twists and turns are inevitable throughout. McAvoy is, at first, a confident man who seems to have it all, the high-paying job, the expensive house, the fast cars, but once the confident sheen is replaced with a more confused vigour, he’s stripped back to his shell, showing his true nature, in a twist you really don’t see coming (or I didn’t). Cassell’s role is a more straight-forward one as a crime villain, he’s present throughout, but his presence becomes less and less powerful as the film progresses. Dawson is a revelation, as I previously had her down as a weak link, but she delivers a powerful performance, as her role continually changes throughout. The development, or at times, regression, of these characters, is really interesting to watch, all of them changing at some point, something for which Boyle hasn’t really been praised for.

But what really overshadows the sometimes lacking story, are the visuals, editing and sound. Boyle has a reputation for a delectable visual style, and ‘Trance’, is no different. He manages seemingly impossible POV shots, with the general cinematography meaning that it’s a very attractive film to look at. Strangely enough before my screening, we were treated to a minute-long introduction from Boyle himself, who briefly spoke about how he edited the picture just before the Opening Ceremony, and despite  both being set in London, that was the only thing that conjoined the two. It was an unusual message, and one I still don’t full understand, but one thing I do know is that the editing in this is excellent. Transitions are slick and work well with Boyle’s visuals, especially with various dream sequences, more of which later.

And adding to the entire concoction is the soundtrack. A pumping electro score that delivers in spades, matching the slick on-screen action, and coming into its own during the aforementioned dream and heist sequences. Alongside the atmospheric electro influences, are a track by Moby, in what is a strangely memorable scene, and Boyle’s favourites, U.N.K.L.E, who also featured heavily in his opening ceremony last year. It’s strong music that helps make a film, and it says a lot that it stands up to the task on it’s own, after I just had to buy it!


Echoes of ‘Inception’, were with me as often the plot jumped between dream sequences involving McAvoy. You couldn’t be sure whether he was going crazy, what was real or whether he was truly in a trance, but the plot is still straightforward enough to follow and all is revealed come the ending. And that is another quality the film possessed which I appreciated, one that is surprisingly used less and less nowadays: a conclusion.

The story, for all of it’s slippery twists and turns, does come full circle, and ends somewhat satisfyingly, defying films like ‘Prometheus’, and the numerous franchises which dominate the multiplexes, and, let it be said, that I usually fully enjoy, but hardly ever completely finish as singular films, instead focusing on the next installment. It was just nice for everything to be tied up in just under two hours.

A couple of day’s on, I still am thinking about it, I really enjoyed ‘Trance’, not quite ‘loved’, due to its slightly sloppy plot, but it was a really fun time at the cinema, and one that I hope to see again before it slips onto Blu-Ray and DVD.


7 thoughts on “Film Review: Trance (2013)

    1. Thanks a lot! I can tell you I wasn’t there unfortunately.I saw it on Wednesday, the night after my Showcase cinema had an ‘Insider’ special screening with a message from Mr Boyle, I can only imagine they used the same print by accident!

    1. Thanks a lot for the comment. it was a technically lush film and I did nudge my friend to mention ‘Inception’ to a knowing nod so it’s more than just me and you haha!

  1. nice review – although as for its having a conclusion, it seemed to me to end with an ambiguity not entirely dissimilar to the one with which INCEPTION ended. Blue pill or red pill?

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