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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Trance

August 3rd, 2013

Trance - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Trance is based on a TV movie written and directed by Joe Ahearne. Joe Ahearne helped write the screenplay for the theatrical release with John Hodges. John Hodges previously wrote the screenplays for Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, among others. Many of his films were directed by Danny Boyle, who also directed Trance. Given the pedigree, a lot of people were expecting a lot out of this film. It earned overall positive reviews and made more than $2 million in limited release, which is better than a lot of films manage. However, this was still way below expectations. Was it a case of expectations simply being too high? Or were there serious enough flaws in this film that caused it to fail to live up to many of Danny Boyle's previous films.

The Movie

The film begins as we are introduced to Simon Newton, an auctioneer at the Delancy's Auction House. He explains how art heists have always been around, but now they need a lot more planning, as the auction houses have a lot more security and a procedure they must follow. One part of the procedure is never play a hero. No piece of art is worth a human life. However, when hey day comes and Delancy's is hit, Simon plays his part but in the end, he tries to be a hero and ends up with the butt of a shotgun to his face as a reward. It's enough to send him to the hospital with a cranial hemorrhage and he barely makes it.

When Simon is good enough to go home, he finds his apartment trashed. Worse still, someone wants to see him. That someone is Franck, the guy who stole the painting. To be more specific, he was the guy who planned the heist, a heist Simon was in on. The plan was for Franck to intercept Simon before Simon dropped the painting into the timed vault. However, Simon somehow changed the painting out and Franck only got the frame. Worse still, because Franck hit Simon in the head, Simon can't remember a thing that happened, even after Franck's men rip out Simon's fingernails, he can't remember where he put the painting. Realizing he will have to take another approach, Franck comes up with an idea. He will hire a hypnotherapist to help Simon recover the lost memories. He even lets Simon choose one at random.

The hypnotherapist Simon choose is Dr. Elizabeth Lamb. He likes her name. Simon is going to go to her to try and remember where the painting is, but because it is a stolen painting, he has to come up with a cover story. He's looking for his missing keys. During the first session, she figures out right away that something is amiss. (She can see the wire Franck made him wear and she sees the bandages on his fingers and realizes he is in trouble.) But she is good at her job and gets him to reveal his real name, and helps him find his keys. Franck is obviously not happy with this failure, but he realizes Dr. Lamb is good enough to do the job. They just need to give it another go. However, before their next session, Elizabeth Googles Simon Newton and makes the connection between the missing object Simon is desperate to find and the art heist. She decides the best way to help Simon, is to confront Franck and work within the gang. Of course, this could be a very dangerous decision for her.

Trance is a heist movie and normally I really like heist movies. However, I was never truly drawn into this one. I think the main reason is the surprise twist, or should I say twists. There are too many twists and too many subplots for me to get pulled into the movie. It's like the screenwriters were more interesting in making the moviegoers keep second guessing what they were seeing instead of focusing on making a compelling movie. Danny Boyle isn't blameless here, as he does tend to emphasize style over substance. This was true in Slumdog Millionaire, but here the style gets in the way of the substance. That's not to say it is a bad movie; it just doesn't live up to the pedigree. It is worth watching, especially for the performances by the three leads: Rosario Dawson, James McAvoy, and Vincent Cassel. It just isn't as good as I was hoping it would be.

The Extras

The extras are not bad, but not great either. The longest is a 34-minute making of featurette, while there is also a 15-minute retrospective on Danny Boyle's career. Up next are 17 minutes of deleted scenes. Finally, there's a short film by Spencer Susser, who directed Hesher.

The technical presentation is excellent with vivid colors, deep blacks, and for the most part, a high level of details. There are some scenes that are a little softer, but this was an aesthetic choice and not a problem with the transfer. There were more than half-a-dozen different cameras used, some of which were lower quality than others, so the quality level changes a lot, depending on which one was used. The audio is great with a relatively active 7.1 surround sound track. It is mostly dialogue driven, but there are some scenes that use the surround sound speakers to their fullest effect.

Finally we get to the price. The DVD is $15 while the Blu-ray is $18. A $3 or 20% price premium is great for this type of release.

The Verdict

Trance is a good movie, but not a great movie, and it is worth checking out. If you are a fan of either the director of the lead cast, it is likely worth picking up. If you are going to buy, the Blu-ray is the better deal over the DVD.

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Filed under: Video Review, Trance, Danny Boyle, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, James McAvoy, Spencer Susser, John Hodges, Joe Ahearne