‘Trance’ – talented director with outstanding cast still disappoints

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

There is nothing like a good heist movie, and “Trance,” I’m afraid, is nothing like a good heist movie.

True, it begins with a clever bit of chicanery at a high-end auction. A priceless Goya is up for bids when the alarm system sounds.

A trusted employee, Simon (the ever-good James McAvoy), heroically tries to foil the thieves. In the process, he suffers a head wound.

As often happens in this sort of picture, Simon is actually an accomplice. But the knock on the head has messed things up…in his head. Which messes up everything else.

Now he can’t remember where he stashed the prize, which doesn’t sit well with his accomplices, led by the cool-headed and cold-blooded Franck (Vincent Cassel, indelible as the Balanchine-like choreographer in “Black Swan.”)

Franck suggests hypnosis and, out of several names, Simon randomly picks Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), who seems to be as effective as she gorgeous.

But just how random was his choice?  As the movie goes through different levels of recall, we learn lots and lots about how Simon, Franck and Elizabeth may really be connected.

At this point, “Trance” transforms itself into a kind of kissing cousin to “Inception,” as long-buried memories and other trance-induced mental acrobatics surface. Who, exactly, is masterminding whom?

Like Ang Lee, director Danny Boyle is something of a chameleon. He has a lot of different interests and a lot of different styles. It’s a bit hard to believe that the same man who won an Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire” also made “28 Days Later…” and “Trainspotting.” And, well, “Trance.”

It’s almost always off-putting to expect one kind of movie and find yourself at something entirely different. That’s one reason I get steamed about trailers, which can be criminally misleading.

I’m not really steamed about “Trance,” just disappointed that a talented director and outstanding cast seem to be wasting their time.  McElroy comes off best, showing us he can make the jump from brainy semi-nerd to action guy. Cassel, whom I adore almost as much as I did his father, Jean-Pierre Cassel, does little with a nothing part.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is Dawson, a powerhouse actress who never manages to put as much double-dealing-dame chutzpah in the entire movie as Barbara Stanwyck does by simply walking down the stairs at the beginning of “Double Indemnity.”

‘Trance” isn’t a cruddy movie. “Oz The Great and Powerful” is a cruddy movie.  Still, with this talent gathered together, you expect something a little more, well, entrancing.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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