Trance: Messing With Your Mind (Movie Review)

Consider the movies you’ve probably seen that Danny Boyle has directed: Slumdog Millionare, 127 Hours, Millions, Sunshine, Trainspotting. The bar is set pretty high, no? Add in James McAvoy (Atonement, X-Men: First Class, Wanted), Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, Mesrine, Ocean’s Twelve & Thirteen), and Rosario Dawson (Rent, Sin City, Seven Pounds) and you figure greatness is just around the corner. But is Trance great, like Memento or Inception, or merely “twisty” like Entrapment or The Thomas Crown Affair remake?

Auctioneer Simon (McAvoy) attempts to stop his associate Franck (Cassel) from stealing Francisco Goya’s “Witches in the Air,” and ends up with some head trauma for his efforts. But when Franck realizes there’s no painting in the satchel he stole, he threatens Simon to reveal the actual painting. They determine that Simon literally can’t remember where it is, so they hire the hypnotist Elizabeth (Dawson) to get the truth out of him. It all seems very normal, until we realize that maybe the narration isn’t absolutely reliable, and that we don’t know any of these characters as well as they present themselves (a la Side Effects).

I didn’t find the movie enjoyable, or entertaining, given that none of the “players” were actually heroic, and while it appears to be a grift, it actually turns into a revenge yarn. How Simon, Franck, and Elizabeth relate to each other makes sense, and is quite a stretch, all at the same time. But none of them are good, noble, or above board, and it’s hard to find their acting enjoyable given the ways they play out their rather flat violence.

In the end, this is a study of how the mind works, the lies we tell ourselves, and the truths that we attempt to convince others to believe. It’s fascinating in its twistedness, but still not positive. Trance wants us to know how we create reality to mask our weakness, our fears, our secrets, and ourselves, to make us feel better about our lives. But it’s a tale that unfortunately doesn’t resolve with any good or positive reality; instead, we’re left with nothing but a hollow revenge.

Given the players involved, and how I feel about most of Boyle’s body of work, I know it’s worth considering in a pretty slim DVD market this summer, but I’d still skip it. Want to see a movie about a con? Go rent The Sting.


About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at,, and the brand new
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