These are all kinds of awesome…
From the novel by Irvine Welsh, Jon S.Baird writes the screenplay and directs Filth starring James McAvoy. Oooo this film looks delicious.
Danny Boyle is rightfully mentioned in the same breath as legendary British directors David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock and Ken Loach. After winning an Oscar in 2008 with Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle took on two projects at the same time; the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and his newest feature film release, Trance.
PSA: This is a no spoilers review, because that would be unfair for you all!
Trance is a crime thriller in which James McAvoy finds himself at the mercy of a group of criminals after a bungled painting theft. The movie has a marshmallow-like structure, insofar as it deals with time, memory and dream states but in a very sticky, challenging-to-navigate manner.
If you were to make a breakfast milkshake of the best parts of all Boyle’s movies – camerawork, cinematography and colour of Slumdog, music of The Beach, screenplay and character dynamics of Trainspotting and Shallow Grave, and shocking, visceral elements of 28 Days Later – you would have the thirst-quenching wonderfulness that is Trance. Firstly, this movie has the best opening twenty minutes of any film this decade. It has to be seen to be believed but it is electrically-paced. If David Lynch can be considered an auteur of sound, then Boyle is an auteur of music; he knows exactly the right tracks to use at the right time and is bang on trend. We get McAvoy’s character set up, the criminals introduced and the disequilibrium for the protagonist started, all set to a pounding soundtrack that has become so synonymous with Boyle. All of this prologues the rest of the movie in a wonderful way and goosebumps were even sprouted on one occasion!
Once our hypnotist (Rosarios Dawson) is introduced (which you will see in the trailer), it does get a little expositiony, and there was a small period in which it felt like the plot had to be described because we were falling down the rabbit hole. This was only a short occurrence, and the tone of the film, its humour, shocks and spirit shone throughout the runtime. That’s another wonderful thing about Trance. Despite all of the shocks (of which there are many), there was a thread of humour woven into the narrative and the character arcs for McAvoy and Cassel were extremely detailed and worked in harmony perfectly. It shouldn’t be dwelt on but Rosario Dawson delivers more than one can imagine in her role as the hypnotist.
The movie is shot in London and seems to carry on a trend of making England’s capital look beautiful. We think Creevy (Welcome to the Punch) would have begged, borrowed and stolen to make a film as rich in narrative content while being a pleasure to watch. The only true thing that one could take exception to in Trance is when McAvoy uses an iPhone app in an iPad, which NO ONE should do, ever.
*end tongue-in-cheek geek rant*
Overall, Trance was such a pleasure to watch at the cinema. The colour palette, camera angles and cinematography, music, and filmic spirit need to be seen/heard on a big screen and were all contributors to the audience leaving with massive smiles on their faces. That’s not to say that the third act doesn’t reach some dark places, but Boyle is the perfect person at the helm to guide you on the ride. Avoid all spoilers and go into it fresh. If someone starts telling you details of the film, put your fingers in your ears and run away. You do not want to ruin this movie for yourself.
The setup is relatively simple; Max Lewinsky (James McAvoy) is a hardened, young British policeman obsessed with capturing super criminal Jacob Sternwood (Mark Strong). Following an unsuccessful capture attempt years before, shown in the opening sequence, Lewinsky gets unceremoniously shot in the knee. David Morrissey, David Mays and Andrea Riseborough provide the supporting cast, as McAvoy and Strong find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation brought to light by the shooting of Sternwood’s son.
James McAvoy makes this face a lot…
I don’t really know where to begin with a film I felt had so many negatives, so I’ll start with some of the positives. The editing of the film is tight and well executed and at just over 90 mins long, it rolled by swiftly and never dragged. It has to be said that Eran Creevy knows how to deliver an exciting set piece. The opening and closing sequences were well shot and understated, and managed to avoid descending into implausible action al la the latter Die Hard films. Unfortunately the positives stop there for me. Welcome to the Punch has that truly impressive quality whereby it manages to be completely predictable but extremely confusing. The characters seemed underdeveloped and their motivations over-thought. This meant it was easy to establish from early on in the film who was on what side, but by the end you were none the wiser as to why anyone had behaved in the way that they had behaved. The plot is formulaic in structure, but its execution and conclusion, instead of being original and profound, left me baffled and somewhat annoyed.
Like a lot…..
McAvoy’s character is served up as a ‘maverick’ police officer who we should sympathise with due to his persistent gammy knee. Nevertheless, Creevy fails to ever really authenticate Lewinsky’s obsession with Sternwood any further than what we see in the first two minutes. I kept thinking he should just be grateful he wasn’t shot in the face. As well as struggling to get behind Lewinsky’s motivation and almost tortured demeanour throughout the film, I felt McAvoy was a strange choice for the role. His south London accent was slightly forced and he seemed uncomfortable at times with the brooding nature of the part . This film has earned praise for avoiding such cockney clichés, such as the overuse of the C word or saying ‘you slag’, but McAvoy’s accent was a cliché in itself. Set in one of the most diverse cities in the world, would it have been that much of a stretch that our main character was Scottish? McAvoy may have been able to do more with the dialogue had he not been so preoccupied with the dialect. I doubt it though, as the dialogue felt like a script by numbers throughout. Mark Strong does his best with the one dimensional Sternwood but doesn’t quite manage to get the balance right between dangerous criminal and moral purveyor.
You get the point…
Unfortunately if the plot, the dialogue and the characters are unconvincing then there is not much left for me to admire apart from the cars going really fast and the pretty shots of London’s Docklands. In other reviews many critics argue that Creevy had created a film that holds up to its American counter parts, in which the opening sequence could easily have been LA or New York. This is an accurate assessment, but for me this acts in detriment to the film rather than a compliment. A British crime thriller should be as incomparable from the States as our justice systems. I want my British films to have style, substance, originality and swagger. Welcome to the Punch failed to deliver on any of these wishes.