April 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassell, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”)
Written by: Joe Ahearne (debut) and John Hodge (“The Beach”)

Though his movies are well known and his reputation as an impressive filmmaker is planted in the world of cinema, director Danny Boyle has never quite had a huge audience for his work. In fact, only one of his movies has ever crossed the $50-million box office threshold, and only three have crossed $20 million. Of course, that all changed when Boyle orchestrated and directed the opening ceremony for the 2010 London Summer Olympics, which was watched by an estimated 900 million people around the world. After being at the helm of an event watched by nearly a billion people, Boyle returns to his roots with another low-budget independent feature. In his follow-up to the stunning multi-Oscar nominated 2009 film “127 Hours,” “Trance” (which was actually filmed before the Olympic ceremony planning, shelved, and finished post-Olympics) is Boyle’s take on a psychologically skewed art-heist film.

In “Trance,” art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) helps to orchestrate a heist of an expensive painting. In the middle of improvising a double-crossing scheme, Simon suffers a blow to the head by ring-leader Franck (Vincent Cassell) and suffers amnesia. Unable to remember where he hid the painting, Franck enlists in a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) in an attempt to figure out where the priceless painting was stashed. Elizabeth discovers Simon is in trouble and from there, relationships, motives and greed begin to emerge.

The performances in “Trance” are fine, but nobody particularly stands out. McAvoy is the best of the bunch, as he gets to play a wide variety of emotions. With Cassell, you get an above average version of a very typical crime villain. Dawson brings an overt sexuality to the role, which is laid on pretty thick by Boyle. Ultimately, it serves no real purpose other than to unnecessarily complicate relationships between characters. Strangely enough, while they all have pretty good on-screen chemistry, their relationships within the movie are poorly written and difficult to buy into.

Screenwriters Joe Ahearne and John Hodge along with Boyle perhaps overload on confidence, expecting the audience to care about the eventual end point of the story. The problem is that while the half-cooked plot lines are left hanging, there is no suspense or curiosity attached to them. Though there are themes of greed, trust, and obsession, which linger throughout the entirety of the film, the script as a whole feels incredibly unpolished and haphazardly thrown together. The presentation of hypnosis throughout the film requires a suspension of disbelief and even then is still extremely far-fetched. For a director who has such a distinct visual style and flair, even the look of “Trance” fail to impress. Sure, there are some neat camera angles and shot compositions but certainly nothing that could be considered a unique stamp for Boyle.

While “Trance” starts with an interesting premise, it eventually collapses on itself after an exhausting series of underwhelming twists that takes entirely too long to develop. Even after a drawn out, overdramatic expository scene, which explains nearly everything, there are still narratives turns in what seems like a never-ending loop of penultimate endings. Instead of being a thoughtful and challenging suspense film, “Trance” is unnecessarily confusing and akin to being given pieces to a puzzle that you just want to give up on halfway through.

Black Swan

December 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler”)
Written by: Mark Heyman (debut), Andres Heinz (debut), John J. McLaughlin (“Man of the House”)

If searching for a young director with an audacious approach to filmmaking that is unlike anyone else working in the industry today, look no further than Darren Aronofsky.

While his last film, 2008’s critically-acclaimed drama “The Wrestler,” was less bizarre than some of his earlier works including “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Fountain,” and “Pi,” Aronofsky finds his way back to an unusual narrative in “Black Swan,” a hypnotic, psycho-sexual thriller that plays like high-art horror.

Academy Award nominee Natalie Portman (“Closer”), who will definitely earn a second Oscar nod for her role here, plays Nina Sayers, a ballerina who is chosen as the fresh face of the company by her demanding director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassell). Although Thomas chooses Nina as the lead for his version of “Swan Lake,” he’s not sure she has what it will take to perform both distinct parts of the classic ballet. While she is technically flawless and built to play the White Swan, Nina is missing the fiery passion needed to transform into the Black Swan.

With an overbearing (bordering on obsessive) mother (Barbara Hershey) at home watching her every move and a new ballerina (Mila Kunis) from San Francisco who might be out to take her role on stage, Nina’s paranoia begins to take effect on her fragile mental state.

Thus begins Aronofsky’s take on a metamorphosis that rivals David Cronenberg’s 1986 film “The Fly.” While not nearly as graphic in nature, “Black Swan” is just as intense and chilling. Portman, whose real-life ballet skills probably helped her earn the role, has never been better. It’s a confident performance in a beautiful and unnerving film that examines the significance of ambition and what someone will sacrifice to reach perfection.