Danny Boyle has become known for his thumping soundtrack that permeates his energetic visuals and acts a meter for onscreen tension or emotional content. This can work really well when Boyle’s characters are of a questionable nature or not to be trusted as in Trainspotting or even 127 Hours where the music runs parallel to Aron Ralston’s humbling realization and acceptance of his situation.
It works less powerfully when the music is additive, and only affirms the already sincere emotions of the characters on the screen. In that moment the music doesn’t add depth or complicate the characters. It just tells us something that we already know and feels forced and treacle-filled.
Many times A Life Less Ordinary had this quality, and though Boyle’s ever-moving camera and hyper-saturated colors were exciting as always, the story still felt flat and unsurprising.
Trance though much darker than A Life Less Ordinary has some of the same problems. It’s not just the music, but all of the visuals act to reaffirm the story that is unfolding, and in such a way as to undermine the mystery. It leaves the viewer with a film that has many twists and turns, but very few real surprises.
I should start by commending the film for what it does well. The energy and look of Trance is vibrant and beyond coherent. The art direction and set dressing often mirrors the digital effects and the way the camera interprets information. This with the elegant transitions into to various states of consciousness make Trance a visually appealing film.
The performances are also engaging. Vincent Cassel as the thuggish criminal Franck, and Rosario Dawson as the intelligent, resilient and deceptive Elizabeth both turn in solid portrayals of their characters especially considering both of these actors often times knew significantly more than their characters throughout most of the scenes.
James McAvoy does what he can with his character, Simon, but the script has a few plotting issues that require massive shifts in Simon’s nature, and it is a bit more than can be believed. Everything is explained, but it just does not feel quite right.
And perhaps that is more the issue than anything else. Though the plotting and direction are meticulously crafted, and the actors are capable and willing, the characters on the page never fully elicit the emotions necessary for us to really care. Without this emotional connection I was unable to get really surprised by a change or a reveal.
Instead with cheek firmly on fist I just kind of thought, “Yep.”
It is a shame too, because Boyle’s energy and exciting use of his visual frame paired with the excellent cast deserves more.
If you are looking for a buzzy, exciting visual experience that lacks a ton of emotional punch, then Trance might do it for you, but I was definitely disappointed.