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Film / Trance

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A 2013 British psychological thriller. It stars James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel, and is directed by Danny Boyle.

Art auctioneer Simon becomes involved in the heist of a famous painting from his own auction house; but when the thieves find the painting they intended to steal missing from its frame, and circumstances leave Simon with Laser-Guided Amnesia, the thieves turn to hypnotist Elizabeth to help Simon uncover his memories of what he did with the painting.

Not to be confused with the musical genre.

This film provides examples of:

  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Near the end of the film, Simon learns that he was in a relationship with Elizabeth, but he became so abusive towards her that she had to make him forget about her through hypnosis. Also, after being hit on the head during the heist, he mistakes an innocent bystander for Elizabeth and murders her.
  • Attempted Rape: Simon interrupts one happening to Elizabeth by Nate, Franck's associate, with a gunshot to the groin.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Nobody in the audience felt any sympathy for Nate, Dominic and Riz after they were gunned down.
    • Simon after we discover that he's a homicidal domestic abuser.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Although Simon appears to possess some qualities of a Nice Guy as demonstrated by the Happy Flashbacks of his relationship with Elizabeth—it's implied that she fell for Simon and even broke the professional boundary between therapist and patient because of how kind and attentive he was towards her—he becomes homicidal after he's consumed by a paranoid jealousy. Simon even manages to get the upper hand over Franck's Mooks, who kill people for a living. And he very nearly murders Franck, a hardened criminal, as well.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Simon directly addresses the audience at the beginning of the film, serving as our narrator.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several.
    • At the start of the movie, Simon stun-guns Franck in what seems to be an ill-advised moment of heroism. Actually, his goal was to distract Franck so he wouldn't open the case and discover that he had already stolen the painting.
    • The first hypnosis sessions turns up a set of car keys instead of the paintings the thieves wanted. It is actually the key to the car where Simon hid the painting.
    • During the second hypnosis session, Simon travels in France with what seems to be a random pretty young lady. It is revealed later that she was a passerby Simon mistook for Elizabeth and murdered.
    • Franck's revolver counts as a literal example.
  • Domestic Abuser: Simon turns out to have been one to Elizabeth.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Elizabeth masterminded the plot as revenge for Simon being a domestic abuser. The whole film was her plan to steal a piece of artwork.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Don't be fooled by Simon's very pretty, innocent visage; he's a hideous Green-Eyed Monster underneath.
  • Femme Fatale: Elizabeth is beautiful, seductive and literally able to change a person's will at her pleasure, not just through her feminine wiles alone, but due to her skills at hypnotism, which makes her all the more dangerous.
  • Foreshadowing: Plenty of it.
    • Before the heist takes place, Simon is briefly shown losing a game on an online gambling site. It later turns out that he took part in the heist because he had a gambling addiction and had to pay off his gambling debts.
    • After revealing this, he admits that he should have just gotten hypnosis to cure his gambling addiction. He did, which was how he met Elizabeth in the first place.
  • The Gambling Addict: Simon; he agrees to assist Franck and his goons to steal a valuable painting from the auction house that he works at in exchange for Franck paying off his gambling debts.
  • Gilligan Cut: Franck's answer to being hypnotized is "definitely no." Cut to the entire group being hypnotized.
  • Gorn:
    • Franck's gang tortures Simon by tearing out his fingernails, one by one.
    • Simon blows the top half of Franck's head off. Which doesn't stop Franck from talking to him. Turns out Simon was in a hypnotic trance at the time.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Simon, oh so very much. He's willing to murder Elizabeth if he can't have her back, and he attempts to kill Franck for sleeping with her.
  • Groin Attack: One immensely painful gunshot to one of Franck's associates.
  • Hypno Fool: All of Elizabeth's patients are willing examples, as are the gang of thieves during a session with Elizabeth. Naturally, this includes Simon. Of course, his hypnosis goes further back than he thinks...
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Subverted with Simon. His youthful facial features (which includes his bright blue irises) tend to be highlighted, and he initially appears to be the most sympathetic character in the film, but it's later revealed that Simon is an abusive, violent boyfriend and a murderer.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia:
    • After Franck hits Simon in the head, he initially can't remember anything about the heist.
    • Elizabeth also manages to make Simon forget everything about herself and their abusive relationship.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Simon is physically unimposing and he certainly looks harmless, but as his emotional state grows increasingly unstable, he becomes more ruthless and aggressive, and ends up being a real threat to Franck and his henchmen.
  • Mind Screw: It does have a relatively coherent plot, but thanks to the nonlinear narrative and frequent fluctuations between hypnosis and reality, it may take you a while to fully wrap your head around it.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Simon is nude in one scene (although his hands cover his genitals), and he's shirtless in another.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Elizabeth appears completely naked twice and mostly naked a few more times. It was oddly justified in at least one scene, which provided a clue to the characters' hidden pasts.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The hypnosis session where Elizabeth makes Simon forget their relationship. Also, 'Bring it to me'.
  • One-Word Title
  • Pop-Star Composer: Rick Smith of Underworld scored the film.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Simon first returns to his flat and finds it ransacked.
  • Pretty Boy: Simon is boyishly beautiful, and coupled with his charm, it's why Elizabeth falls head over heels for him despite knowing full well how unethical it is for a therapist to be involved with her patient.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Countless tiny elements that are important later on or simply build up bigger plot elements are sprinkled all over the film. This makes the second viewing just as much, if not more rewarding as the first one.
  • Scenery Porn: The lighting and colours are gorgeous, and the movie feels like a motion picture version of a painting.
  • Tap on the Head: Strongly averted. Simon is knocked out at the beginning with a blow from a shotgun butt and suffers severe trauma that requires surgery along with what seems to be a lengthy hospital stay. This is before we even get to the amnesia.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Simon gets shot, rammed with a car into another burning car, and is then driven over a pier into the river.
  • Title Drop: The word 'Trance' appears on-screen near the end of the film. It's the name of an app that Elizabeth created to allow Franck to forget the plot of the film.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Near the start of the story, Simon is utterly helpless when he's being tortured by Franck's goons. He later kills all three in cold blood despite never having used a gun before in his entire life.
    • Elizabeth didn't like being the victim of Domestic Abuse anymore. Downplayed, as she is still the Damsel in Distress but later comes out on top.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Elizabeth is far more dangerous and sympathetic than she first appears...