Saturday, September 13, 2014

CURRENT REELS: DANNY BOYLE'S "TRANCE"


For a director of such stature, Trance (2013) came and went without making a splash.  The limbo of average filmmaking is a hard place to be. You must either be  quite exceptional or exceptionally bad to have any sort of staying power in our throwaway culture. Sure, Boyle has a following, and even the most general and noncommittal cinemagoer has heard of at least one or two films bearing Boyle's directorial efforts. Trainspotting (1996) and Slumdog Millionaire  (2008) have cemented themselves in the annals of film history. 28 Days Later... (2002) played to full auditoriums in my small town.  As did Sunshine (2007).  As did 127 Hours (2010). 

The point is, people go to Boyle's movies, though often without realizing they are his. With a boasting resume, he appears to lack the auteur factor, as many directors today do. The only consistency lies in good story telling, but the kinds of stories, or the stylistic stamp that defines auteurism is entirely missing from Boyle's body of work. The diehard fans will disagree, proclaiming with every new entry that "Danny's done it again!", yet I am unable to point to any one distinctive aspect that can identify a film as his. It took the credit roll to realize Trance was Boyle's work.  Food for thought…

Onto the film. On the one hand, everything was there with Trance - great cast, interesting premise, an absorbing soundtrack, competent direction, sharp editing. Does it add up to a winner? Not by industry standards, but it was a pleasure to watch.

An art auctioneer is in on a job that goes horribly wrong. The stolen painting is now missing and the rest of the crew wants to know where it is. Since he had it last, he is the prime suspect but, after being hit on the head, he now has no recollection of the heist. The plan is to use hypnosis, by a rather sensual female hypnotist, in order to retrieve the missing art piece. (No, this is not a poor man's Inception). Every minute, Trance's web becomes more tangled. The twists and turns start early.  They do not let up. 

Suspension of disbelief is essential, and I eagerly went along. That's the mastery of it. When things get wild, a good film encourages you to let the suspension hold. A bad film has you throwing your hands up in the air - "Yeah, right!" I wanted to believe.

Thinking about the film afterwards, I started to dissect. The soundtrack left an impression, but when I listened to it on its own, it didn't stick. Within the film, however, it was absorbing. The thing with Trance is, once you start taking it apart, the performances, the style, the editing, the music - it all becomes convincingly average and forgettable. As a whole, it is dynamic. I wish it did better and found a bigger, more enthusiastic audience. Overall, a nice surprise on a Saturday night for a jaded viewer tired of redundant racing franchises, robots, and superhero reboots.

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