Director Danny Boyle has built up an awful lot of goodwill in his native Great Britain since orchestrating last year’s magnificent Olympics opening ceremony. He might need it bearing in mind this messy return to the big screen.
In what may be Boyle’s biggest misfire since The Beach, Trance tells the overly complicated story of fine art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) who is also the inside man for a gang of art thieves led by Franck (Vincent Cassell), who are intent on stealing a Goya worth millions from a London auction house. In a pulsating opening sequence that’s easily the highlight of the movie, the painting is taken — but after receiving a blow to the head from Franck, Simon has no recollection of what he did with it.
Enter Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), a Harley Street hypnotherapist hired by Franck to unlock the secrets contained within Simon’s mind and uncover the location of the Goya (“everyone knows amnesia is bollocks,” says one of Franck’s hoodlums in an all too rare moment of levity). But of course, things aren’t what they seem.
By squeezing a heist movie, drama and romantic triangle into one film Boyle seems to be more a magpie than a director with Trance — he’s acknowledged drawing inspiration from fellow British director Nicolas Roeg (Performance, Don’t Look Now) and Boyle also seems to be looking to movies such as Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Inception and Vanilla Sky. It’s difficult to root for the characters, or even care about them much – which wasn’t an issue in Boyle’s debut thriller Shallow Grave – while scriptwriters Joe Ahearne and John Hodge seem to keep writing themselves into corners they just can’t escape from.
Boyle tends to do a lot with a little – the poverty-stricken kids of Slumdog Millionaire, the junkies of Trainspotting, James Franco’s captivating self-amputee in 127 Hours – but struggles to pull off brash, flashy features like A Life Less Ordinary or The Beach. And reviewers concur, with Variety noting that “superficial pleasures aside… the convoluted script jumps and dodges so often, it soon loses the thread of its own story.” Time Out New York thinks “the film plays like something Boyle could kick out in his sleep, all his supercool devices listlessly deployed in service of a mediocre wet dream.” But going back to our original point, the Daily Telegraph concludes that “Trance is what happens when one of our finest filmmakers himself regresses into a past life: it’s far from perfect, but you can hardly begrudge him the trip.” At least as far as Boyle is concerned, the goodwill isn’t evaporating anytime soon.
TIME: His Dark Materials
Tagline: The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience.
It’s not often that you see a review of a remake whose opening words are “The rare remake that likely will be enjoyed most by diehard fans of its predecessor.” But that’s Variety‘s line and they’re sticking to it. And it augurs well for director Fede Alvarez’s reboot of Sam Raimi’s 1981 cult horror flick Evil Dead (As does the fact that Raimi’s production company,Ghost House, is behind the new version as well).
The plot remains basically the same: five twentysomethings holed up in a remote cabin discover a Book of the Dead, and use it to bring to life the dormant demons living nearby — after which all hell literally breaks loose. Will any of the young stars survive? And can the movie live up to the promise of its tagline?
If the vast majority of the reviews are anything to go by, it may live up to the hype. The Hollywood Reporter added its approval to Variety‘s: “From the initial attack … to the literal rainstorm of blood that accompanies the climax, Evil Dead delivers satisfyingly disgusting effects that serve an ever-accelerating action pace.” Screen International is similarly enthused, noting that “it’s a solid, effective, even imaginative job mounted with thought and care, delivering enough grand guignol shocks to satisfy a contemporary multiplex crowd on a weekend night.”
The Company You Keep
The Company You Keep, directed by and starring the venerable Robert Redford, had its world premiere at last year’s Venice Festival, but is only getting a domestic release now.
Based on Neil Gordon’s novel, Redford plays Jim Grant, a Weather Underground fugitive on the lam after being outed by a young journalist. Redford has brought out one heck of a cast, including Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Terrence Howard, Anna Kendrick, Chris Cooper, Sam Elliott, Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci and Richard Jenkins.
The reviews are neither brimming with life nor toying with death. “The Company You Keep feels like a movie you’d have seen in 1975 — one informed by political righteousness and made for adults,” reckons Time Out New York. TIME’s Mary Corliss liked it at Venice, calling the film “a pulsating drama of a man who goes on an intricate, often interior journey to outrun his past.” But the Village Voice is less impressed, pointing out that, “given the finger-wagging suggestion of its title, it’s actually no surprise to find that The Company You Keep turns out to be politically chicken-hearted.”
VIDEO: 10 Questions for Robert Redford
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: The fairly short list of respectable remakes gains another entry, thanks to Evil Dead.