Movie Review: Trance (2013)

Trance (dir. Danny Boyle, 2013) – “It is essentially a thriller hung on the shoulders of an art heist with post-hypnotic tendencies. ” – James McAvoy


Reviving Joe Ahearne’s genre-bending thriller, Danny Boyle forays into the wonders of the human mind with wit of his own.


Trance begins with art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) narrating his security routine, before he plays accomplice to a heist in his own auction house. He soon loses the stolen painting to his criminal partner Franck (Vincent Cassel) at gunpoint, or so he believes. Hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) attempts to locate the lost art in Simon’s lost memories, but soon unveils secrets beyond larceny.

From the get-go, it is clear that this will not be an easy puzzle to solve. Rather, the riveting hallucinogenic trip promises a provocative dive into the complexities of the human consciousness. Director Danny Boyle invites us into a dazzling hyper-reality and constructs striking surrealism with clever camera tricks, speeding through intricate turns in his high-concept mind bender.

Photo: Film4 / Susie Allnutt

With no intent to play it safe, Danny Boyle muddies the distinction between reality and hypnosis fairly early into the game. A layered narrative shows no fear of alienating the broad audience with intricacy or seductive imagery. Complicated pieces fall neatly into place with ease.

First impressions prove deceptive. No one is who they seem to be. Flashbacks offer answers in meagre and tantalising bits. Every new detail forces us to re-think our initial judgements of the characters.

As necessitated, the performances are transformative. James McAvoy delivers fine nuances with each new revelation of his complicated past. Vincent Cassel shines with menacing echoes of his Eastern Promises mobster before. Rosario Dawson is a standout with her poised role integral to all that follows.

Photo: Film4 / Susie Allnutt

But just as it was never really about the paintings, Trance is more than just its characters. Rather, they hold the events together to express fascinating ideas behind the suggestible and unreliable human mind.

At times the plot feels a too little thin for its grand ideas, keeping them from being fully fleshed out. Trance never quite manages to fill that feeling of void. Even so, the movie provokes further thought on the audience’s part about the abstractions of memory manipulation.

A great work of art makes us ponder at length. It questions what we think we know, before we return to figure out what lies beyond the surface design. As such, Trance lingers long after its credits roll and guarantees an eager revisit.

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Trance (2013)”

  1. Great review Jade. It wasn’t always on-fire, but when it was: I was continually compelled. That’s mostly thanks to Boyle’s direction and the fine cast of characters he has been able to assemble.


    1. Absolutely, Boyle is one of my favourite directors and this was thoroughly engaging, helped by the intriguing nature of the plot. Thanks for reading Dan! 🙂


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