Greg: Because my wife reads the AP Wire all day, she told me she read a review of “Trance.” And because I’m a terrible friend, I told Brian what she told me.
Greg: Look, I said I was sorry. I didn’t mean it, but I said it.
Anyway, she told me “Trance” is like “Inception,” but mean.
Well, I’ve seen “Inception.” And I’ve seen “Trance.” And, to be fair, they have a bit in common. But I found “Trance” to be a good deal less frustrating, a bit more straightforward, and pretty entertaining.
It begins with an art heist. It’s good to have something solid to work with because everything starts to go a little squidgy shortly after. Simon the auctioneer (James McAvoy) is in on the heist? Or is he stopping the heist? Or is he in on it and then in it for himself?
Brian: I think he was in on it. But then had an impulse to stop it. But then both? Oh God, my head.
Greg: And I think the source of that impulse is addressed later on as the mind-fuckery unfolds
But the truth of the plot is that Franck the criminal (Vincent Cassel, who really needs to be in more of everything) and his gang of mostly forgettable other criminals don’t so much care about the why as they do the where. Mostly they, and Simon would like to know what happened to the painting the art dealer valued at several million pounds.
And this is where we meet Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), the hypnotist who is hired to help Simon remember where he put it.
There’s a lot more twisty-turny plot from there on out. Plenty of knowing glances that make you wonder who is playing who. But you’ll get those when you watch the movie, which we both think you should do.
Brian: At this point, we should probably mention that there’s a sequence of surprise developments in the film that make it difficult for us to get very specific about the plot beyond what we’ve already discussed. More on this later.
Greg: Here is where we praise director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”) and the script by frequent Boyle collaborator John Hodge (“Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting”) and Joe Ahearne (a director of “Doctor Who” episodes and writer of the original TV movie “Trance” more than a decade ago).
Boyle can sometimes seem a little too eager to please and apt to show off, and while there’s plenty of gorgeous shots in this film, his direction comes across as more confident and purposeful. He’s serving the story and keeping the audience’s minds swirling about on the ever-shifting plot.
Brian: I must also credit total Ace editor Jon Harris (“127 Hours,” “Kick-Ass”) in our cavalcade of praise here. He intersperses frames and flashes in a way that perfectly reflects not only how memory works, but the way it doesn’t work— as Simon fishes for a memory, desperately trying to reconstruct the moments after the heist, his memories rearrange themselves subtly, so that both we and he are never sure quite what to believe, even as the reality of key moments gradually asserts itself. And Danny Boyle’s moments of beauty are well-used; he’s as good at pulling moments of almost shocking beauty from otherwise depressing, mundane locales as he’s ever been.
Greg: This is a movie that’s not afraid to make you a bit squeamish — though it’s fairly restrained, compared to some of Boyle’s earlier works — and happy to titillate on occasion. Rosario Dawson bares all in this one, with Cassel and McAvoy showing a bit of skin, themselves.
Brian: In all fairness, I wouldn’t quite say his intention was to titillate, unless by that you mean “show tits.” But yes, this is as good a time as any to mention the nudity, and how the nakedness of Rosario Dawson kind of made me forget who I was or where I lived or whether there was earth outside the movie theater, much less whether or not the film was any good. Which I think it was, but still.
Greg: This isn’t the “Dragnet” movie I re-watched over and over as a young man just for the strip club scene. There’s an actual enjoyable movie surrounding a bit of nudity, but…man, that’s some nice nudity. Is it OK to say that? I don’t care. Rosario Dawson is an attractive woman. Call me?
Brian: She’s not gonna call you. She’s too busy texting me.
Greg: You son of a bitch.
OK, back to the important stuff.
“Inception” had a point, but it was also quite intent on leaving the audience with more questions than answers at the end. I can respect that in a film, but it doesn’t necessarily make me want to watch it again.
“Trance” doesn’t mind if you walk out still piecing things together, but I think all the pieces are there. Start by matching colors and get the edge worked out. Puzzles are fun!
Even better, the pieces are there from the beginning. The script isn’t afraid to give you some solid hints early on about what’s really happening and you’ll have a fair amount of fun making sense of them as it proceeds. This isn’t an episode of “Monk.” Your grandma won’t have it figured out by the end of the title sequence. It’s the kind of movie I look forward to seeing again and maybe making those connections a little earlier.
Brian: How dare you besmirch “Monk.” I say this jokingly, of course, not because I love the show but because my mother-in-law loves the show. And generally has it figured out by the end of the title sequence.
But you bring up a very good point: I really enjoyed the balance Boyle struck between keeping us guessing and giving us enough material to figure it out for ourselves. On the grand scale of convolution, I’d put it slightly below “Memento” and a few notches above “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” That sounds like an insult but I swear it’s not.
Greg: I have probably seen 90% of the “Monk” catalog, so let’s just agree that everybody watches too much everything.
“Trance” has some great suspense. It reminds me, in some ways, of “Shallow Grave” because there’s truly a sense that you don’t know what’s coming next and that a happy ending is far from guaranteed.
And there’s plenty of humor (mostly dark) as well. The actors all take care of the material, especially Dawson and McAvoy, who really seemed to understand where their characters were at every moment.
The previews may indicate that, as well as a crime story, we may get some meditation on the truth of the mind. And there’s a little, but not much. Frankly, that suits me just fine. Not every movie needs to make you question your sense of self. I’m quite pleased that “Trance” was interested in entertaining us. And, I’m happy to report, mission: accomplished.
Brian: I am in huge agreement regarding this cast, which was stellar. Vincent Cassel is wonderful in everything; James McAvoy is a treasure, and Rosario Dawson is, in addition to being just painfully hot, just an excellent actor
Greg: I give it 4 out of 5 Rosario Dawson vaginas.
Brian: In the interest of fairness, I give it 4 out of 5 well-formed James McAvoy buttocks.
“Trance” is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images, and language.