Type-casting not only occurs to actors but also directors.  Some who have delivered block-buster success have been pigeon-holed to certain genres with few allowed to diversify.  British director Danny Boyle has never been affected by this.  Exploring zombies, drug use and life in other cultures, his work has shown his refusal to be creatively trapped.  ‘Trance’ highlights his differing directorial palette whilst maintaining the gritty qualities making him a much admired film-maker.


Simon (James McAvoy) is part of a criminal gang stealing works of art.  After a daring heist, an accident robs him of his memory.  Failing to recall the location of a valuable painting, he goes to hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson).  Hoping to remember where it is, Simon’s task is made harder with the presence of his shady colleagues including Franck (Vincent Cassel).  Demanding to know where it is, Franck’s threats become the only real aspect of Simon’s increasingly surreal existence.


‘Trance’ is an effective twist-driven thriller with enough red herrings to stump viewers.  As Simon becomes lost between his real and imagined worlds, the element of surprise is constant.  The plot commands attention with Boyle gleefully layering the deceit and double-cross.  Occasionally he goes too far with certain strands becoming muddled although the performances are consistently arresting.  The actors make this brisk guessing-game enjoyable with the outcome not always certain.


The way it’s shot also makes ‘Trance’ stand-out.  It’s easy accepting Simon’s confusion of reality due to the striking cinematography.  It moves shadows and colours with lightning speed which aid the ongoing tense atmosphere.  This adds to the stark intensity of the brutal world in which the characters reside as violence increasingly becomes their mode of communication. 


Fans of engaging thrillers should enjoy ‘Trance’.  It certainly keeps you on your toes with its game of wondering how events will conclude a puzzle most would be happy to solve.


Rating out of 10:  7


G.I. Joe: Retaliation

As someone who grew up avidly reading the G.I Joe comics back in the 1980’s, the films have been a blast from the past.  They are as silly and totally ludicrous as one expects but that’s been part of their appeal.  The non-stop action and death-defying stunts have mirrored the fantastical imagination children had when playing with the various related merchandise.  ‘Retaliation’ is a full-throttle sequel full of over the top spectacle – something long-time fans wouldn’t have any other way.


On the run after being framed by Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) who is impersonating the American president (Jonathan Pryce), the G.I. Joe team are in trouble.  Among them are Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and Duke (Channing Tatum).  With the help of General Colton (Bruce Willis) they aim to stop the evil Cobra organisation from unleashing a world-wide apocalypse.  With guns blazing and bullets to spare the G.I. Joe guys and girls show their enemies exactly what vengeance feels like.


An important question any escapist movie should answer is – does it entertain?  In G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s case it does in spades.  Jon M. Chu’s frenetic direction ensures every action sequence is seen in all its glory.  Using a mix of real and CGI influenced styles these scenes run the gamut of ridiculousness with the pacing never slackening.  These films are meant to be enjoyed as the performances have about much substance as fairy floss.


Whilst not as good as its predecessor, G.I. Joe: Retaliation gamely carves out its own identity.  The somewhat stream-lined cast help maintain focus and there are enough characters moments to make one care about what happens.  Everything is painted in broad comic-book strokes with the heroes impossibly virtuous and the villains suitably hiss-able.  There’s nothing mundane here – just a colourful pop-art thrill-ride towards a predictable but nonetheless captivating finale.


‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ is silly nonsense with tongue firmly in cheek.  As a slice of bubble-gum cinema it works with its bad-ass characters defying the odds against countless ‘worthy, but dull’ productions.


Rating out of 10:  6