Iron Man 3 Review – Stark Contrast

Director: Shane Black

Writers: Drew Pearce, Shane Black

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley

Release date: April 25th, 2013

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country USA

Running time: 130 minutes


Best part: Black’s direction.

Worst part: The underdeveloped supporting characters.

Ever since 2008’s Iron Man, Tony Stark has become a pop-culture icon and beloved Marvel Universe character. In The Avengers, Captain America orders Stark to list his special qualities. Stark simply looks him in the eye and, with a straight face, replies “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”. His tone and dry wit have now pulled him through four hit blockbusters. The latest, Iron Man 3, is a thrill-ride in every sense.

Robert Downey, Jr. & Don Cheadle.

It’s a fun and enlightening superhero flick that focuses on the series’ core ingredients. This instalment is also vastly different to the previous two Iron Man Flicks. Set after the near-apocalyptic events of The Avengers, Iron Man 3 picks up with Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) recoiling from memories of magic, monsters, and aliens. His trip through the wormhole, during the Avenger’s New York battle, has left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, anxiety attacks and insomnia are the least of his problems. Stark must now contend with The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), Leader of a terrorist group known as the ‘Ten Rings’. He sets off horrific explosions within the US and publicly boasts about it. Also gumming up the works is Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) founder and ultra-smart-ass Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). Stark, Killian, and fellow scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) have a history. In 1999, Stark rejected Killian’s ground-breaking ideas. This was a bad move! After his house is destroyed, Stark must find the motives behind the Mandarin’s attacks whilst keeping his girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and best friend, Lt. Col. James Rhodes a.k.a. The Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle), out of harm’s way.

Guy Pearce.

Iron Man 3 may lack the focus and charm of the original, but it’s still much better than 2010’s Iron Man 2. Whereas Iron Man 2 suffered from story, character, and pacing issues, Iron Man 3 smartly balances drama, action, and character. Despite the glitz and glamour that comes with casting Robert Downey jr. in a lead role, the biggest star of this instalment is Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). As you can tell, his filmography is both commendable and extensive. This is Downey jr. and Black’s first collaboration since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The amusing and grimy film noir is similar to Iron Man 3 in many ways. These two men clearly work well together. They provide a wink-and-nudge style of humour that many big-budget flicks desperately need. Black commands this movie the same way that Joss Whedon took control of The Avengers. Black has a strong love for both smart storytelling/screen-writing and the original material. His film will appeal to both film-goers and comic book aficionados. His writing/directorial style has many idiosyncrasies. Much like his previous efforts, Iron Man 3 has a Christmassy theme, tough heroes, spectacular action set-pieces, a buddy-cop style team up, and slimy villains.

Ben Kingsley.

Ben Kingsley.

Iron Man 3, despite its convoluted story and multitude of characters, moves at a good pace. It pumps up the volume when it needs to whilst taking time to focus on Stark’s human side. The first third moves quickly. It establishes how every character fits into this expansive universe and what they represent (war on terror, patriotism etc.). After the first spectacular action set piece, in which Stark’s luxurious Malibu house is obliterated, the film suddenly slows down. All three acts are separate from each other in both subject matter and tone. The second third is a charming buddy-cop/detective flick. Stark’s new friendship with a young boy, Harley (Ty Simpkins), is both refreshing and hilarious. Stark, whilst talking down to the young boy, realises that he is a hypocrite. He also admits that he is an extremely vulnerable individual. It’s fun to see Downey Jr. play another detective character; applying Stark’s knowledge to this dangerous mission. The film’s special effects and gadgets are stellar. The action sequences are fresh and vibrant. Mixing fun choreography with inventive cinematography, each set-piece is both memorable and thrilling. His new suit, made up of multiple, inter-locking parts, is both a neat invention and the subject of many comedic moments. The mix of dramatic and cartoonish elements is important to this exciting and visceral experience.

“That’s the thing about smart guys: we cover our asses!” (Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Iron Man 3).

Gwyneth Patrow.

Gwyneth Paltrow.

Black needed to create some interesting characters for this instalment. Unlike Iron Man 2, the characters here are well developed, necessary and empathetic. Stark is as entertaining as ever. Instead of being arrogant and/or selfish, he is an entrepreneur with a thirst for vengeance and thrills. His relationship with Potts brings him back down to Earth and gives us a reason to care about him. We like Iron Man, but we love the man underneath the suit. Downey Jr. is at his charismatic best here. Much like his performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he uses charm and sensitivity to bring his character to life. Don Cheadle fits more comfortably into his role than he did in Iron Man 2. Stark and Rhodes’ friendship works similarly to the buddy-cop partnerships seen in Black’s previous works. I wish they had more time together on-screen. Paltrow is effective as Stark’s better half and the film’s strongest female character. Pearce is slimy yet sympathetic as a man looking for revenge. Kingsley is magnetic as the menacing lead villain. The twists and turns involving his character are some of the film’s best moments. Unfortunately, Hall is sorely underused as Stark’s old flame. Her character has charm, but no real reason to be in this film.

Stepping out of The Avengers‘ gigantic shadow, Iron Man 3 is nothing short of awesome. Many people will be bothered by its emphasis on drama over action. However, the story, characters, humour, and visuals collaborate to create an enjoyable blockbuster. Marvel’s Phase 2 is off to a cracking start.

Verdict: A witty and entertaining third instalment.

Olympus Has Fallen Review – USA/North Korea Smackdown!

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Writer: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt

Stars: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Rick Yune

Release date: March 22nd, 2013

Distributor: FilmDistrict

Country: USA

Running time: 120 minutes


Best part: Butler as an action hero.

Worst part: The poor CGI.

In the 80s, the Soviet Union (Russia) was seen as a crippling nuclear threat. In the 2000s, the Middle East was seen as a dangerous and chaotic region. Today, North Korea is seen as the most villainous country on Earth. The Red Dawn remake and Olympus Has Fallen contain intelligent and dangerous North Korean villains. Olympus Has Fallen is an ultra-fun B-movie with a taste for violence, patriotism, and theatrics.

Gerard Butler.

It’s a film that goes far beyond its ridiculous and cheap premise. It’s insanely silly in more ways than one, but it relishes its opportunities. The film starts off with four American flags waving proudly within the first 30 seconds. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) share a close bond. However, their lives are drastically altered by a car crash that kills two Secret Service agents and the first lady. 18 months on, Banning fails to adjust to his new life as a Treasury Department worker. One day, Washington D.C. is attacked by an army of North Korean Paramilitary trained terrorists. Led by Kang (Rick Yune), the terrorists hold President Asher hostage and threaten to destroy America. With the help of Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and Secret Service leader Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett), Banning must tip-toe through the white house to save both his friends and the country.

Morgan Freeman.

Morgan Freeman.

Similarly to G.I. Joe: Retaliation and A Good Day to Die Hard, Olympus Has Fallen is a jingoistic and excessive action extravaganza. It’s another actioner that revels in both nostalgia and explosions. The movie is the best ‘Die Hard‘ flick of 2013 so far. This film has the ridiculousness and epic scale of a Die Hard sequel. However, unlike AGDTDH, the movie knows how to entertain both Die Hard fans and the average cinema-goer. I love this film despite its inconsistencies. The film is much more than just its right-wing and fascist agenda. It’s a heart-thumping action flick in the vein of Air Force One and Escape from New York. Many modern action flicks aren’t violent. They use the M15+ rating to capture the largest possible audience. Olympus Has Fallen willingly pushes its MA15+ rating to the max. The film’s introduction contains a tragic event. It’s an emotionally affecting and tense sequence that establishes bonds between important characters. Soon after, the film becomes even more unsettling with the grotesque and ridiculous terrorist attack. Every step of the terrorist’s plan is both implausible and gratuitous. However, this meticulous attack takes out famous monuments, Secret Service agents, and innocent civilians. Given the recent events in Boston, It’s a sequence that may be too difficult for some people to watch.

Rick Yune.

Rick Yune.

Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) is one of the best action-drama directors working today. He builds character and tension before the spectacular set-pieces take place. His film moves at a cracking pace as the clock ticks down. However, many of the action sequences are let down by poor CGI. These sequences look like video-game cut scenes. Set-pieces that should be thrilling are void of emotional pay-off. This film is a subjective look at recent events. The feud between North and South Korea, and the west, is intensifying. The film gives you a preposterous yet dangerous interpretation of this conflict. This cliché-ridden script is uncomfortably xenophobic and jingoistic. There are many scenes in which the American flag is proudly raised, riddled by bullets, or thrown from the White House roof in slow motion. Major plot-holes and confusing character motivations aside, there are many scenes which heavy-handedly depict American pride and valour. For example, the scene in which the Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo) is reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, whilst being dragged along the floor, is unintentionally laughable. There are also many silly one-liners which inappropriately end important scenes.

“Why don’t you and I play a game of f*ck off. You go first.” (Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), Olympus Has Fallen).

Butler & Aaron Eckhart.

Likeable action-movie characters are difficult to find nowadays. In the 80s, they were either skilled tough guys (any character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) or average Joes (John McClane). In Olympus Has Fallen, Banning is as charming and threatening as an 80s action hero. He struggles to adjust to his new life as a desk jockey. This damaged hero must complete his new mission in order to redeem himself. Much like McClane, he is both charming and vile whilst dealing with one henchman after another. The torture sequence is both shocking and enjoyable; establishing how far he is willing to go. Butler convincingly fits into the action hero role. His physicality and charisma turn an otherwise generic lead character into someone to root for. There are many esteemed character actors peppered throughout the movie. Eckhart is underused as the President. Freeman’s performances in Olympus Has Fallen and Oblivion prove that he is still one of Hollywood’s greatest actors. Yune is charming as the slimy villain while Dylan McDermott, Robert Forster and Radha Mitchell are charismatic in underwritten roles.

Despite its inconsistencies, Olympus Has Fallen is a rollicking action flick that isn’t afraid to be exploitative. It may be too much for some, but action movie fans will have a great time watching landmarks being destroyed and Butler kicking ass. Fuqua has created an enjoyable and inventive action flick.

Verdict: A visceral and intensifying action flick.

Warm Bodies Review – Hungry Heart

Director: Jonathan Levine

Writer: Jonathan Levine (screenplay), Isaac Marion (novel)

Stars: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco, John Malkovich

Release date: February 1st, 2013

Distributors: Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate

Country: USA

Running time: 97 minutes


Best part: The chemistry between Hoult and Palmer.

Worst part: The dodgy CGI.

For the past few years, we have been inundated with the works of author and stay-at-home Mormon Stephanie Meyer. The Twilight franchise and The Host have now made the big bucks, but that doesn’t mean they are good. Imagine if a romantic-horror movie for teenagers was actually well written, directed, and acted. I know it seems impossible, but Warm Bodies fits this premise. It’s a fun, witty and heartening examination of life and love.

Nicholas Hoult.

Nicholas Hoult.

The film starts out with narration from a teenage zombie who calls himself R (Nicholas Hoult). He’s stuck in an existential crisis whilst shuffling around a decayed airport. He lives in an abandoned plane and hangs out with fellow zombie M (Rob Corddry). His dull existence is livened up by the introduction of resistance fighter Julie (Teresa Palmer). It’s love at first sight. After R eats her boyfriend(Dave Franco)’s brain during an attack, he saves Julie by escorting her to his hideout. Their relationship slowly begins to blossom, as Julie learns that there is more to the zombified inhabitants of Earth than meets the eye. Many directors have experimented with zombies, romance, and Shakespeare. These topics are popular for many reasons. Despite their vast differences, their elements can easily be woven together. Warm Bodies certainly owes a debt of gratitude to zom-coms such as Shaun of the Dead and  Zombieland.

Hoult & Teresa Palmer.

Hoult & Teresa Palmer.

The movie inventively takes on the zombie point of view. Many people have described Warm Bodies as a ‘zom-rom-com’. It may be a cheesy description, but it fits this movie like a glove. Its story can be summed up with a quote from esteemed poet Maya Angelou. She said that “love is like a virus, it can happen to anybody at any time”. These zombies are murderous yet still have some life left in them. Their dreams and memories are trapped by the infection stewing in their veins. R sees the funny side of his existence whist wishing he had his old life back. He charmingly grunts every word whilst we hear his intelligible narration. His ‘almost conversations’ with M are some of the film’s best moments. The film’s sense of style is subtle yet efficient. The 80s soundtrack, featuring songs by Bruce Springsteen, The Scorpions, and Guns N’ Roses, lends the film a comforting sense of nostalgia. The writing and direction are responsible for the film’s quality. Jonathan Levine is clearly a fan of both zombie lore and romantic-comedies.  With this and 50/50 to his credit, he could be seen as the next John Landis or Ivan Reitman. Both are black comedies that deal with the ugly side of the human condition. Warm Bodies is clearly inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare’s touching story is brought to life in a film dealing with the worst situation imaginable. The film forms its own identity whilst imitating the classic tale. The film subverts zombie clichés whilst conforming to romantic-comedy clichés. It’s a classic ‘Hollywood’ story of two people from different sides of the tracks.

“I don’t wanna be this way. I’m lonely. I’m totally lost. I mean, I’m literally lost. I’ve never been in this part of the airport before.” (R (Nicholas Hoult), Warm Bodies).

John Malkovich.

John Malkovich.

This movie has similar elements to Let the Right One In. However, whereas that film was violent and dark, this is witty and quirky. The relationship between Julie and R is palpable despite their unusual situation. The airport becomes the setting for multiple ‘dates’. They listen to rock music, drive sports cars, and enjoy the spoils of R’s collections. The zombie makeover scene, with the song Pretty Woman blaring in the background, is a stand-out comedic moment. They soon begin to act like a cute couple. This is both a fun comedy and a perfect date movie. The romance is, at points, heavy-handed. Metaphors and cheesy moments are awkwardly thrust into this otherwise tender romantic-comedy. The love-story also leaves many questions without answers. It’s difficult to decipher how and why their relationship can cure the zombies around them. The ultra-dead zombies, known as ‘Bonies’, are also unconvincing. Calling back to the Ray Harryhausen era of CGI, they are uninteresting and prove to be only a minor threat. The film is brought to life by its stellar performances. Hoult overcomes his character’s obvious restrictions to deliver a fun performance. He is a charming and sensitive performer who convinces us to care about his character’s remarkable transformation. Corddry brings wit to his otherwise generic role. Palmer changes from tough chick to soulful love interest with ease. John Malkovich, despite his underwritten role, is charismatic as the cynical resistance leader and Julie’s dad. Franco and Analeigh Tipton are charming in small roles.

With a zany sense of humour and catchy retro soundtrack, Warm Bodies is a surprise hit. Combining so many genre elements and influences, it’s a charming and intelligent interpretation of zombie lore and romantic-comedy mechanics. Levine and Hoult lend their remarkable talents to an otherwise conventional pseudo-Shakespearean tale.

Verdict: A witty and charming zom-rom-com. 

Oblivion Review – Cruise Control

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Writers: Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt (screenplay), Joseph Kosinski (graphic novel)

Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough

Release date: April 19th, 2013

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 124 minutes


Best part: Tom Cruise.

Worst part: The slow pace.

With two blockbuster movies under his belt, Joseph Kosinski has now established himself as an auteur. After his first Hollywood flick, the electrifying Tron: Legacy, Kosinski moved on to his pet project. He has now adapted his own graphic novel into a feature film. Written and directed by Kosinski, Oblivion is filled with wonder but is too derivative and contemplative to be as good as it should’ve been.

Tom Cruise.

The film starts off with an exposition-heavy prologue. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) explains everything we need to know before we are sucked into his post-apocalyptic world. He, and partner Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), are stationed on Earth after the apocalypse. They’re in charge of drone security and maintenance. They pick up the scraps that invading Alien forces have left on Earth. The human race is a mere two weeks away from jetting off to Titan (one of Jupiter’s moons).  Every day, Jack is sent out into the wasteland to search for survivors, fix damaged drones, and eradicate alien scavengers. He wakes up in a cold sweat every night, experiencing the same dream about a woman he may or may not know. One day, a strange spacecraft crash-lands on Earth. After surveying the scene, Jack changes his entire outlook on existence and humanity itself. Jack, reluctantly teaming up with resistance leader Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman) and crash survivor Julia Rusakova (Olga Kurylenko), must find out why his existence has turned out the way it has.

Morgan Freeman.

It’s an overwhelming mix of action and sci-fi tropes. It’s derivative of such influential sci-fi films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, I Am Legend, The Terminator, 12 Monkeys and Total Recall. It smashes together so many ideas and concepts from other films that it forgets to craft its own identity. However, there is still joy to be had with this by-the-numbers sci-fi adventure. Kosinski’s new movie has many of the same problems that his previous film had. Both are visually sumptuous but display Kosinski’s lack of care with story-telling and character development. The first third of the film contains many nods to the Pixar classic WALL-E. Unlike the lively, musical-loving little robot of that film, Jack is a dangerous and contemplative individual. Both characters are fun to watch. Jack looks for scraps on the Earth’s surface whilst asking questions about existence and memory. Both he and WALL-E also find the last plant left on Earth. The film’s glacial pacing is a questionable choice. A film such as this should move quickly to keep its audience excited at every twist and turn. Instead, Oblivion spends too much time on strained relationships and philosophical questions. Thankfully, Oblivion doesn’t become pretentious, dumb or muddled like many modern sci-fi flicks (Prometheus).

Olga Kurylenko.

Oblivion has a focused first half and a confusing and plot-hole-filled second. Despite my complaints, it’s nice to see an up-and-coming director with a keen eye for both sci-fi stories and kinetic visuals. The visual style elevates this film above mediocrity. Kosinski’s love of slick lighting and colour patterns brings both Tron: Legacy and Oblivion to life. Every special effect looks smooth and streamlined. Its Apple-like production design beautifully contrasts the Icelandic settings. These atmospheric and multi-layered scenic vistas are gorgeous to study when the camera lingers on certain images. Oscar-winning cinematographer Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi) livens up this cold narrative. Every shot is precise and touching. The movie is particularly effective when the action sequences kick in. Kosinski loves vehicle chases and futuristic weaponry. He re-invented the Tron franchise with an impressive motorbike chase. Here, the aeroplane/drone battle in the canyons is a stand out sequence. Jack’s jet ducks and weaves through every crevasse in spectacular fashion. However, the action only briefly distracts from the exposition-heavy dialogue sequences. Every-time a dull and derivative cliche pops up, there is an intriguing plot point that is left to the waste-side. However, credit should go to Kosinski for providing yet another thumping score. Much like Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack, M83’s music adds both intensity and scale to nearly every scene.

“I can’t shake the feeling that Earth, in-spite of all that’s happened, Earth is still my home.” (Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), Oblivion).

The movie bats you over the head with its environment and political messages. Oblivion soon becomes a haunting reminder of nuclear warfare and enemy invasion. Hopefully, life won’t imitate the events of Oblivion any time soon. Jack is a fascinating character. Despite his philosophical crisis and mental instability, his earnestness and humanistic tendencies make him a likeable character. As usual, Cruise provides enough charisma and magnetism to lift his role. Cruise is lively in some moments and heartening in others. His recollection of the final Super-bowl is a fun moment. Like Solaris, the lead male character falls for a mysterious girl. The love triangle between him, Victoria and Julia could’ve been interesting, but the script fails to develop the female characters. Julia should’ve been a prominent and alluring love interest. Instead, Kurylenko delivers the ‘deer-in-headlights’ look throughout the entire film. Riseborough provides a saucy performance as Victoria. Playing Jack’s friend with benefits and work colleague, Riseborough is much more energetic than Kurylenko. Morgan Freeman makes the most of his underwritten character. He proves that there are many eclectic performances still left in him.

For the most part, Oblivion is a rollicking sci-fi flick. If you can avoid the flaws scattered throughout the film, you may fall for the charismatic performances and glorious aesthetic. Kosinski has a unique eye for visuals, but let’s hope that his next film will avoid jarring tonal shifts and pacing issues.

Verdict: An energetic yet problematic sci-fi actioner. 

Trance Review – Boyle-ing Over

Director: Danny Boyle

Writers: John Hodge, Joe Ahearne

Stars: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, Danny Sapani

Release date: March 27th, 2013

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Countries: UK, France

Running time: 101 minutes


Best part: Boyle’s direction.

Worst part: The multitude of plot-twists.

Memory can be a powerful tool. We can relive our greatest moments and worst experiences in great detail. It’s a mechanism that can also be warped in miraculous or disastrous ways. Many films have focused on this powerful and engaging topic. Hollywood’s latest examination of the mind is Trance. It’s a convoluted yet profound experience. It’s, for lack of a better word, mind-boggling.

James McAvoy.

The film opens with the lead character, Simon (James McAvoy), explaining how an art auction should operate. His job is vital to the security and preservation of famous paintings from many countries and centuries. He also doubles as an insider for a dangerous band of French criminals. Led by Franck (Vincent Cassel), the criminals storm the auction house, take out the security system, and head for Francisco Goya’s Witches in the Air. However, Simon’s heroism draws him to the painting before Franck can reach it. Suffering a blow to the head from the butt of Franck’s gun, Simon’s concussion leads to amnesia. When torture fails to work, Franck hires seductive hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to help them find the missing painting. Her experimental procedures put everyone involved in danger. Simon must find the painting and uncover his darkest secrets before it’s too late.

Vincent Cassel.

Trance is, for all intents and purposes, one of the best films of 2013 so far. It’s a rich, sprawling and stylish thriller with a heartening touch. This film is similar to Steven Soderbergh’s latest film Side Effects. Both films contain layers that are both alluring and secretive. You’ll need to be wide awake to engage with the film’s many surreal elements. The movie becomes exhausting well before the final revelation. However, it’s nice to see A-list directors tackling slick yet inventive stories. Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) is essentially the British version of Soderbergh. Boyle’s body of work varies in tone and genre, but his trademark visuals remain. He has taken on dark sci-fi adventures (Sunshine), docudramas (127 Hours), zombie apocalypses (28 Days Later) and family flicks (Millions). It’s exciting to compare Trance to other films in Boyle’s impressive filmography. It may not be his best film, but it’s still an electric and satisfying psychological-thriller. It’s much slicker than many of his previous efforts. It appropriately and efficiently focuses on style more so than substance. Boyle still manages to meticulously craft every twist and turn inside this convoluted story. The collaboration between him and screenwriters John Hodge and Joe Ahearne has created a visceral example of escapist entertainment.

Rosario Dawson.

If you mixed Hitchcock’s most polarising thrillers, with 40s film noirs (e.g. Double Indemnity) and Boyle’s impressive oeuvre, then Trance would be the end result. Just like Inception, Memento, and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Trance led me up one path whilst distracting me from the paths it intersected with. Hypnosis, psychology and memory are dangerous tools in this cat-and-mouse game. Its heist-thriller sequences intersect with both psychological-drama and sexy romantic-thriller elements. It was the Les Diaboliques-like story and arresting character threads that thrilled me. As the film delves deeper into Simon’s shattered state, the violence and nudity increases. These elements may seem gratuitous, but they heartily push the story toward its shocking conclusion. The characters are found lurking inside each memory. It becomes increasingly difficult to decipher reality from fantasy. Boyle’s kinetic visuals also elevate what could’ve been a lacklustre Memento wannabe. His visuals have distracted me in the past. It seems that Boyle has learnt from such mistakes as Sunshine’s messy final third and The Beach’s overt silliness. Bright, contrasting colours flood every scene. Shots are defined by peculiar angles, images, and movements. Meanwhile, the film’s punchy editing style precisely folds everything together. It’s ironic that Boyle’s taste in trance music works to this film’s advantage. The pulsating score pushes Trance into overdrive.

“I was really good, but not good enough. And not good enough really isn’t very good.” (Simon (James McAvoy), Trance).

Part of Trance’s violent streak.

Boyle is honest about the type of film he has created. He has made a psychological thriller that creates its own demented sense of fun. When the line “no piece of art is ever worth a human life” is uttered, Boyle is clearly winking at the audience. The film benefits from its Hitchcockian characters. They quickly become lost inside this catastrophic situation. Simon is a common man disarmed by multiple forms of temptation. Addicted to gambling, his eventual downfall into criminality brings his dark side to the surface. His description of the auction heist is both poised and engaging. McAvoy has proven himself to be a phenomenal actor. Able to leap from one genre to another, McAvoy balances charm and a fierce screen presence. Cassel has proven his worth in both French and Hollywood cinema. Famous for stunning tough-guy performances in La Haine and Eastern Promises, he is able to bring both charisma and style to any role. In Trance, he convincingly churns out a menacing and vindictive character. Underrated actress Rosario Dawson, Boyle’s ex-girlfriend, goes all out for her role as the slinky hypnotherapist. Her character is the queen of experimental therapy. Her practices are so controversial they would make Sigmund Freud fall off his chair.

From the heart-thumping Heat-like heist sequence, to the film’s creative resolution, Trance is an old-school thriller with 21st century filmmaking sensibilities. Boyle may not be doing his best work here, but it’s still a startling achievement. Trance is an examination of the human condition that never forgets to have fun.

Verdict: A complex and visceral heist/psychological-thriller.