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I had the pleasure of viewing Trance at the Dolby Laboratories in New York City prior to its theatrical release. The following review of the film is a republication of that theatrical review of Trance.
Danny Boyle has never been satisfied as a filmmaker with just giving his audiences a straight narrative, be it the surreal, psychotropic visions of Trainspotting or the delirious tangents in the survival film 127 Hours. In his latest effort, Trance, Boyle has taken his heavily stylized, non-linear form of filmmaking into overdrive.A neo-noir psychological crime drama revolving around a high-end art robbery, the film is superbly cast with a multilayered script from writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge.
James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class; Gnomeo & Juliet; The Conspirator; Wanted) stars as Simon, an art auctioneer who tells the story we are thrust into from his perspective. We immediately know something is off with Simon, but we’re never really sure just what. Simon finds himself the inside man an art heist with a group of gangsters led by the intimidating Franck (Vincent Cassel; A Dangerous Method; Black Swan). A bad knock on the head leads to Simon forgetting where he left the pricey piece of art, and in order to save his hide, he heads to hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson; Grindhouse: Death Proof; Men in Black II) to help him recover his memories. It may seem like a tried and true plot device in a crime thriller, but in the hands of Danny Boyle and co. it is anything but. Elizabeth’s entry into the little crime cadre is immediately unsettling, and we are certain that there is something untoward underlying Elizabeth’s motivations for helping Simon, but we don’t know exactly what either. The casting of Rosario Dawson is a revelation here, in more ways than I care to elaborate on. She becomes the character of the hypnotherapist, and as the story unfolds, turns in on itself, writhes, ebbs, flows, and pulsates, her part as the central hub of this gang of thieves is crucial. She plays it to a tee, and eventually we come to realize just how important she may have been to the whole story to begin with.
Soon we are thrust into a world where the lines of reality, memories, present and past begin to seamlessly blur and the story we believed we were watching unfold before us at the outset takes turns and twists, ending up so many different places we get a head rush or whiplash by the time we reach the end.
Boyle’s signatures are all on full display throughout the film – there are plenty of shocking, gasp-worthy moments that may seem entirely unnecessary at first, but in the greater scheme of the film, become shockingly relevant. The imagery, courtesy of cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and editor Jon Harris is often hypnotic, in keeping with the film’s theme. Drenched in reds, blues, and blacks, and beautiful silhouettes of characters, this film screams modern, and “Danny Boyle.”
If there is an issue to be concerned with in Trance, it is that from beginning to end, there is a sense of detachment from the subjects. A cold, icy veneer, as if the filmmakers are purposely keeping us a layer removed in order to play with us and keep us guessing. The fact that there are so many false endings once we hit the second half (you have to see it; there are too many twists in this film to spoil) makes it all the more difficult to ever be fully engrossed in the outcomes of these people.
Still, there is much more good than bad to be witnessed in Boyle’s work here. Trance more than lives up to its name, and will have you spellbound by its imagery and acting for the majority of the film. It’s a wild ride indeed.
Trance comes to Blu-ray in a stunning high definition AVC/MPEG-4 1080p transfer from Fox. The film was shot in high definition on a variety of cameras and lenses, mainly the Arri Alexa M and Arri Alexa Plus with Hawk V-Lite, Zeiss Ultra Prime, Fujinon Alura, Arri Macro and Canon lenses, and the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and Canon EOS C500 with Canon lenses. There are no apparent compression issues that are prevalent in this encodement and, apart from some issues inherent in the source that were there even up on the big screen during some high speed visual effects shots, this is flawless, with beautiful, bottomless blacks, crisp textures, and marvelous contrasts that highlight the director’s artistic use of color and light.
Trance may not have the amazing Atmos soundtrack that accompanied it in theaters here, but it is blessed with a nearly as good lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack that really surrounds you in atmospheric sounds, makes good use of those extra back channels and, when the pulsating, rhythmic score of Rick Smith starts pounding, throws down some serious low end. Dialogue is crystalline, and that high end sounds even better than it sounded when I heard it the first time around.
We get a few production featurettes that offer up interviews with Boyle and crew, a little over 16-minutes of deleted scenes, and a retrospective of Boyle’s work, along with a short film by Spencer Susser, courtesy of Fox Search Light.
- Deleted Scenes (2.35:1; 1080p/24; 00:16:33)
- The Power of Suggestion – Making Trance (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:33:59)
- Danny Boyle Retrospective (1080p/24; 00:14:56)
- Short Film: Eugene by Spencer Susser (1080p/24; 00:13:07)
- Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24; Dolby Digital 5.1)
The Definitive Word
Danny Boyle’s Trance mesmerizes with its visual imagery and hypnotic rhythms, even when its story becomes a bit too tangled to follow. Thankfully, this Blu-ray release from Fox delivers on the goods, making for a superb home theatre experience that is, if not worth purchasing, at the very least, worth renting for a weekend.
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