As you may know, from time to time I like picking apart trailers, clips, even stills for plot clues. I did this for 'Prometheus' and 'Dream House' as well as others. I like it. It's fun.
Yesterday I put up a clip from Danny Boyle's 'Trance'. And, thinking about it, I discovered some interesting indications about plot, especially reveals and reversals. For convenience I'll put the clips and trailer up again since I'll be making several references to the footage.
Here's a trailer:
Just to be clear, I haven't read the script for 'Trance'. I'm guessing it's not available and, besides, I don't read screenplays. (Not that you care but I find most of them boring, predictable, and poorly written to the point of being unbearable).
So. Going strictly from the info in the above clips/trailers I think I found some interesting stuff. If you don't want the movie ruined, stop reading. Yes, certainly, I could be wrong but once you see what I've found you'll probably agree it's pretty good and, by that time, it'll be too late to unread what follows.
The first thing is from clip #2. In it Rosario Dawson (I'll call everybody by their names not their character's names, for the sake of simplicity) is playing James McAvoy, trying to get him to believe she is on his side.
How can you tell she's playing him? At :30 she holds up a card which reads "Are they listening?" Then, the next card reads, "How many?" Well, how did she know there was more than one person listening? Shouldn't the cards have read: Is anyone listening? Is there more than one person? How many?
Dawson is working with Cassel, trying to get McAvoy to tell her where the painting is. However, Cassel wants McAvoy to believe Dawson is a real hypnotist in order for him to relax around her. That, of course, would be necessary. Dawson pretends to know what's going on and to help McAvoy.
That's the kind of thing a protagonist would have to pick up on later in the movie if he's to keep his respectability. And, apparently, McAvoy does because in this clip it's clear he knows Dawson is working with or at least knows Cassel very well.
It seems the studio either doesn't care about spoilers or thinks we're too dense to put two and two together. Granted, it's a minor point. Anybody would have figured Dawson was not what she seemed but why spoil it with clips like that?
As if that wasn't enough, at 1:35 in the trailer McAvoy asks Dawson "Why did you lie to me?" So, yes, he gets it.
Funny though. When McAvoy pulls away from the woman she has light skin and short hair. In the reverse shot she is Dawson -- with dark skin and long hair.
What that means I don't know but it should be interesting.
We get lots more shots that clearly indicate not only that Dawson knows Cassel but that McAvoy knows she knows him.
Duh. So much for reveals.
Moving on. We get shots with McAvoy talking to someone about basic tenets to remember when pulling a heist. Who could he be talking to? McAvoy has no partner in the clips and trailers, and there is no other actor on the level of the three stars that could feasibly play this role.
So, who's he talking to? I think he's talking to himself. In the mirror. (This would help explain why Boyle wanted McAvoy to spike the camera [something you rarely see in movies]. This is actually McAvoy's POV looking into the mirror).
This is prep from the past played as flashback toward the end of the movie in way of explaining the plot twists. This is McAvoy going over the rules and methods he has come up with over a period of years while waiting for someone to try to rip off the place during an auction.
Yeah, I know. That sounds off. But, this is what movie characters are made of. They're off. If they weren't they'd be just like you and me. Average and, by and large, boring.
So, McAvoy is this repressed schlub in a suit who works with an auction house and stands there watching rich people buy art they can't appreciate. It's worse than that. They're not even rich. They're not even buying the pieces for themselves. They're reps. They're paid to buy on behalf of rich people who, in turn, have no ability to appreciate the stuff they bought.
And, that makes McAvoy twist inside. He watches these mouthpieces bid on expensive art which, rightfully, should be owned by someone who could appreciate it. Like him. So, over the years he plans to steal a painting if given the opportunity. But, he needs an unknowing partner. Enter Vincent Cassel and his gang.
One day, they bust into the place and, yes, steal, or try to steal, a painting. So, things are going according to McAvoy's plan. But, how?
We get a clue at :28 in clip #1. McAvoy does something curious. He zaps Cassel with a stun-gun. Then, he does something even more curious.
He stands there and gives Cassel time to recover and point the shotgun at him.
Then, he does something even more strange. After Cassel picks up the shotgun and stands up McAvoy glares at him -- an icy look that fires a warning: 'Don't you dare shoot me'.
Why? Why all this? Why would a guy who has the presence of mind (and the balls) to zap an armed man be so stupid to just stand there and let the guy regain control of the situation? McAvoy could have picked up the shotgun while Cassel was incapacitated. Yes?
So, McAvoy is a spineless idiot? If so, why glare at Cassel like that and where does a spineless boob get the courage for such a thing? What kind of character goes from being wishy-washy to totally in-your-face within seconds?
What does that say about McAvoy? It says he's a willful person. It means McAvoy did all this for a reason and according to a plan he went over in detail again and again.
At this point McAvoy knows the painting is not in the case. The frame is, but not the painting. It's been cut out. When? At 1:50 into the movie:
At this point I have to rule out the possibility McAvoy is working with Cassel to steal the painting. That's feasible, and certainly fits with movie plots of this kind, but it's not the case here. At 1:52 McAvoy says (looking into the mirror) "And, when it happens, as one day it must, it is imperative not to panic. Follow the drill. And, let the training kick in."
"...As one day it must..." McAvoy refers to the attempted theft of a piece of art from the auction house. The one that will surely happen sometime. The theft McAvoy has waited years for. And, as he waits, he trains, practices, drills. And, as he has no accomplice, he goes over things in the mirror for reassurance.
Okay. So, McAcoy has cut the painting out of the frame and is about to put the case into a safe. Then what? The first and most likely thing that could happen is he gets the case into the safe and hides and waits for the cops pretending to be just another innocent victim of a robbery. What happens when the case is retrieved from the safe without the painting? I don't know. That would be/will be explained by McAvoy toward the end of the movie. He would have had some very clever and entertaining way of convincing the cops the bad guys took the painting. Should be fun.
But, he doesn't get that far. He's stopped by Cassel before he can get the case into the safe. Now, Cassel has the case and McAvoy knows it's just a matter of time before he opens it and finds nothing but the frame. McAvoy has planned for this. That's how smart he is. What's his plan? Simple. Get hit on the head by the thief. How does he affect this? Simple. Interfere with the guy making it clear he will have to do one of two things: Kill McAvoy, or, hit him.
And, McAvoy is counting on this. How does he know the guy won't shot him? He doesn't. Or, he figures he won't. He figures the guy just wants the painting and isn't interested in killing people. But, that's crazy, right? To count on something like that? Yeah, but McAvoy is willing to risk his life to get that painting. That's what movie characters are made of -- brass balls -- and that's why we love guys like this. Plus, maybe McAvoy figures if he is killed in a robbery, well, his life wasn't worth living and at least he went out in a manner he could respect instead of growing old wishing he had the finer things but not being willing to take the steps necessary to get them.
And, that's why McAvoy zaps Cassel but allows enough time for Cassel to recover. So that Cassel will do one of two things -- shoot McAvoy or hit him. He hits him. Where? On the head, just as McAvoy expected. (It's his plan, not mine. The VO explanation in the denouement should be a dandy).
So, now McAvoy has been hit on the head. Why did he allow that? Well, because when Cassel opens the case and finds the painting cut out he will know it would have to have been McAvoy who took it. Then, Cassel will come after McAvoy and torture him to find out where the painting is. Just as planned. McAvoy would know this, expect this. But, alas, you see, poor McAvoy can't tell Cassel anything, even under torture, because...he was hit on the head and suffered a brain injury that precludes remembering where he hid the painting.
And, yes, McAvoy would have to be one hell of a willful protagonist to execute a plan this daring. But, how else to get the audience to like you? How else to entertain the nice people that bought tickets for your movie? Something wild, yet probable, has to happen. Something crazy and entertaining, yet withing the realm of possibility.
Thus begins stage two of McAvoy's plan. He's counting on Cassel to have McAvoy undergo hypnosis (or some other such therapy) in order to find out what McAvoy supposedly can't remember. (You can't torture the guy to death and, if he can't remember, you have to do something that makes sense). Enter Dawson, the hypnotist, who will be used somehow to help McAvoy put one over on Cassel and get away with the stolen painting. (Of course, Dawson will have a plan of her own. She will certainly try to put one over on both Cassel and McAvoy to get the painting for herself and, in the end, she will certainly pay a price for that).
Yes, all very complicated and dubious, but remember, this is a popcorn thriller and those are always filled with twists. That's the way they play. If not, well, they're boring. You want people, when asked about the movie Monday morning, to have that sly 'I can't give details, but it was a lot of fun' vibe. That's what will sell tickets on the second weekend.
And, the very ending? That's when McAvoy enjoys complete character arc. What's the opposite of a schlub in a suit who watches people buy art they (or their bosses) can't appreciate? McAvoy buying his own painting at auction (with the money he gets from selling the painting he stole) then, in the last seconds of the movie, hanging it in his swank apartment while he explains in VO the various clever goings-on, what just happened, the hows and whys, and the importance of breaking out of the mold you were cast into in this life and going for the things that make you happy no matter how improbable, difficult, or seemingly impossible getting those things may be.
END (HYPOTHETICAL) SPOILERS
I can't wait to see this movie. It's looking like a lot of fun. And, if I'm right about the above I'm sorry to have ruined it for you. However, you were warned.
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