Review Roundup - Mind heist

TRANCE (2013)

The latest outing from Danny Boyle offered a reasonable level of intrigue, so despite the clichéd amnesia story trappings being mixed with the other clichés of the inner city crime thriller, I thought it could be worth a shot. During an inside job art heist, the protagonist gets a minor brain injury and is left to figure out where the painting his associates want has gone before they assign him as the guilty party. There may be an answer in alternative therapy, and so hypnosis is employed to delve into the damaged mind. Things get more complex for him, his employer; and the therapist involved, as fragments of the past come together and it begins to seem as though all is not as it appears. See, it sounds familiar already.

Ultimately it's not as trippy as I was hoping for despite a few sequences within the mind or a visual interpretation of it, but the plot does move along at a reasonable pace as things get messy and their methods of getting the information required become more personal. It's surprisingly grim in a number of scenes, with a couple of grisly moments during the third act, during both real world and hypnosis sessions. 

On the downside the narrative is intentionally fragmented as you might expect, which isn't a big deal in itself, but it depends far too much on the payoffs at the end to provide weight to scenes that happen in the earlier parts of the story. It leaves me feeling a bit uninterested early on, despite some decent casting it takes too long to have real any gravity with things piling up in the finale rather than being evenly paced. Along with that, the whole who is stabbing who in the back style plot starts to feel a bit silly as everybody becomes interconnected, and it kind of drains any sympathy for these characters when in the end they all come across as morally empty. 

I've no idea if the 2001 television adaptation of this story did it any better. It was probably less high tech looking; and I could have done without so many tablet computers being shown, which seemed like an odd way of doing reveals where they should have used something that isn't so distracting. As a side, the electronic soundtrack does a good job of keeping the mood both relaxed and sinister when required, and the visual style is pretty good with a lot of high contrast city lights and lighter, dreamier moments. A trip that could be worth taking if it sounds like you kind of thing, despite there being perhaps one twist too many.


Review Roundup - Loose ends


Dodgy makeup and even dodgier accents are par for the course in this fantasy / sci-fi mashup from a variety of film makers, in which the idea of intertwined lives and echoes through time are explored through the Victorian naval era to the post apocalyptic future. Or are they? I will get to that in a moment. Different time periods and genres clash, and a number of different stories come together in some way or another.

On the whole the segments in the anthology are well done. It's a nice looking film during any of periods shown, and each story had things that were likeable, gripping or just simply entertaining. There are various threads about struggles which the characters face, be it illness, bigotry, hit men, cannibals or nursing home staff. I quite enjoyed the latter which was contained in the lightest story in the collection. The fight for freedom is a recurring theme in several different guises. There are a lot of characters to process as they deal with these situations, with a few likeable heroes and some fairly despicable irritants. Though the events have stronger thematic links more than any direct narrative ones. At the moment I am undecided on how effective that is to the story on the whole.

Beyond the writing, there are a lot of different dramatic moments, some effective chases and action beats; and one or two grisly thriller scenes. Though saying that I felt it was drawn out at times, despite all this material to cover it would have helped the pacing to trim back a few things. It's to their credit that each era feels very separate from the others, with washed out 70s sequences paired with neon sci-fi cities and earthy far future tribal scenes. On the subject of visuals, characters are done by the same core cast mixed up throughout the run time, and it's an interesting idea they are perhaps linked by some sort of past life experiences... even if the makeup to achieve this is rather hit and miss. The score is mostly understated and intimate, which is an appropriate link to the title of the film which is taken from a piece of music written during one of the chapters. I have to add however that it was very distracting to have to process some odd dialects being spoken as the cast try different characters. In a number of places they were unconvincing and others are purposely jumbled to represent speech after the fall of civilization.

My main issue (outside the far future decay of spoken language) was that it seemed to all be heading somewhere, a big moment or revelation that would hit me like a truck and make everything fit together. But it doesn't arrive. The threads are tied in to each other by smaller moments, some that work; others seem a bit inconsequential. One man's life story spurs on rebellion in another generation, while other characters simply happen across elements from the earlier periods in letters or journals. Some of the cast seem to be reborn as the same morally lacking people as they had been before, while others don't have any obvious pattern. I had to think about who was where, and what connections there were, if any. I have to recommend the trip though, it should provide some level of debate at least. It's been labelled as polarizing, but I am happy to just be on the middle ground on this one.