Amnesia thriller 'Trance' forgettable

Vincent Cassel is one angry art thief in "Trance."
Vincent Cassel is one angry art thief in "Trance."
Posted: April 12, 2013

THE TEST for Danny Boyle in "Trance," a movie built around amnesia and hypnosis, is to mesmerimize you into forgetting how much you hate the amnesia premise.

Amnesia?

I remember when Franka Potente put that question to Matt Damon in "The Bourne Identity," and made a face, so the movie could signal that it was on our side.

The unabashed "Trance" dives in with Boyle's typical enthusiasm, even doubles down with hypnosis - James McAvoy is a high-class auctioneer who gets hit on the head during an art heist, then is put under hypnosis to remember what happened during the robbery.

Part of the fun of of watching "Trance" is to follow the hairpin turns of this winding story, so we'll keep the synopsis brief.

Suffice it to say that the heist comes off and a valuable piece of art remains missing, leading to a triangle of trust and lust involving the auctioneer, his gorgeous hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) and a vicious thief (Vincent Cassel).

Can McAvoy's character remember what happened? Does what happened change his opinion of who he is? Shades of "Mulholland Drive," repackaged from a dream-state fugue to an uptempo thriller/mystery abetted by Anthony Dodd Mantles' cubes of color, as though he wanted to place the art-world thriller inside a Rothko inside a Mondrian.

To its midway point, "Trance" is clever filmmaking built on dizzying perspective shifts. As it lengthens though, its mechanics get a bit trying, and the movie gets more and more taken with itself as a serious-minded meditation on the nature of memory.

And by the third act, as Boyle swings the cinematic pocketwatch in your face, your eyes start to get very heavy . . .

Are movies a trance? Boyle seems to be saying so, but for me the spell was a fitful one - perhaps, and this is strange for a Boyle movie, because the plot revelations leave us little room to empathize with the leads.

In the end, it joins the ranks of so many amnesia movies - forgettable.


Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel

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