Trance: An English Breakfast

Year Released: 2013
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel 
(R, 101 min.)

“It is not good to want a thing too much.”  John Steinbeck

You won’t sleepwalk through this slick and sexy thriller.  But you may get dizzy from the unexpected plot twists and character reversals, not to mention a disquieting glimpse into an amoral world.

This is a heist film with a psychological twist.  At first just about everything goes right for the well-oiled team stealing Goya’s Witches in the Air at its public auction. The gang is brazen and bold, but what really helps is the insider behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, Simon (James McAvoy), their inside man, gets knocked on the head during the operation, losing his memory in the process.  That would mean little to his cohorts if the wrapped parcel they secret away had not been an empty frame. 

They suspect Simon knows where the missing canvas is and eventually resort to a hypnotherapist to help him remember where he stashed it.

That’s when the fun begins.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the chosen therapist, Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), is absolutely gorgeous, sultry, and sexy.  But she doesn’t get results right away and ultimately catches on that Simon is looking for more than a lost car key.  When Elizabeth finds out about the whole seedy scheme, she wants in on the action and a full share in the profits, though her motives are pure, she says.  Simon will only spill the beans if he respects her status as one of them.

From there we spiral through a surreal world, not knowing what is actually real and what is imagined in Simon’s very suggestible mind.

We have hints of Hitchcock here with the lust, deceit and obsession of Vertigo, but this pretender never quite makes it.

First of all, our screenwriters forget the essentials of story telling in their jaded and cynical tale. There’s no affable Jimmy Stewart for us to root for here.  None of the characters connect to us emotionally, or if they do initially, they ultimately disappoint. 

It seems Director Danny Boyle has forgotten the winning formula he brought to us in Slumdog Millionaire.   The romantic love and soulful devotion that was once part and parcel of our cinematic mystique reappeared in Boyle’s 2009 Oscar winning film.  It is nowhere to be found here.

Trance’s characters are compromised and not very likeable, a problem that also plagued Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects and George Clooney’s Ides of March as well.

These characters are motivated by the lesser emotions – greed, lust, and revenge – and even those are sketched out only superficially.  It’s as though Elizabeth, Simon, and master thief Frank (Vincent Cassel) have been texted out via twitter with a 140 character limit. 

Good writing does allow for the swift reversals that take our breath away, but looking back, we should realize we have somehow been warned, and being surprised is our fault.  In a well-crafted piece we tell ourselves, “I should have seen that coming."  But here we can blame the writers, because the shape shifting is completely without any foreshadowing.

The hypnotherapist Elizabeth is particularly vexing.  She is a girl that wants it all. A femme fatale, she is actually the most corrupt of the bunch, but the misguided writers want to paint her as a victim / avenger / feminist, trying to put some heroic sheen on her amorality.

The sex, just like everything else in the film, is superficial, too. It also pushes the envelope in terms of full frontal nudity.  Gratuitous and verging on voyeurism, sex is here more for its sensational elements than to advance the tortuous plot or deepen the shallow characters.

Watching Trance is like feasting on carnie food – cotton candy, chili dogs, deep-fried twinkies – and then taking a ride on the roller coaster.  Not a good idea.

This film is essentially flawed, but you won’t know it until some time after you have left the theater.  It keeps you on the edge of your seat on an adrenaline high while your are there, only to crash when you are safely buckled in for the ride back home.

–Kathy Borich



Film-Loving Foodie

Frank may be a thief and sometime hooligan, but he does have a touch of class, especially when he serves his crew a full English breakfast at his London loft.  Too bad things get out of hand before they can dive into it.

I have included both the healthy and traditional forms for this once ubiquitous meal.  Today, the English breakfast is more likely down to beans and toast.  Yuk!

Enjoy this traditional feast instead. 

An English Breakfast 

Making an English breakfast

Like so many famous dishes, the English breakfast frequently suffers from being prepared badly and with poor quality ingredients. Often this means everything is fried in copious quantities of fat, making for a heavy and unpleasant meal. Cooked well, with high quality ingredients, it can be a delicious start to the day - although something to have more as an occasional treat, perhaps, than every day!

Preparing an English breakfast is quite easy; it is basically a matter of starting off cooking the items that take the longest to cook, and moving through to the things that take the least time so that it is all ready at the same time. It is made even easier by the fact that most of the ingredients can be kept warm for a while once cooked without spoiling; this fact allows for the common way of serving English breakfasts as a kind of buffet where diners can help themselves from warm serving plates.


To make an English breakfast for 4 people, you will need:

4 rashers of bacon (smoked bacon without too much fat is best, e.g. smoked back bacon)

4 eggs (although you could cook 2 eggs per person if your guests are hungry!)

4 English-style pork sausages

4 medium sized tomatoes, halved across-ways

1 cup
mushrooms, sliced

4-8 slices of bread (traditionally white)

tin baked beans(optional)  For us Yanks, that’s a can of beans. 


"Healthy" Version

The following instructions are for making a slightly healthier version of an English breakfast, with the emphasis on grilling and poaching rather than frying.

Heat the grill to a medium heat, and cook the sausages under it, turning frequently.

Cover the base of a frying pan with about 1cm of water, and heat on a high heat until boiling. When it is boiling, carefully break the eggs into it. If you have cooking rings, you can put these into the water first and then break the eggs into the rings, to prevent the eggs from spreading too much - although really fresh eggs should stay together anyway. Once the eggs are in the pan, wait a few moments for the water to heat up again, then turn the heat down to a very very gently simmer. To ensure the tops of the eggs are cooked, spoon water from around the edge of the pan over the top of the eggs a few times during cooking. When cooked, the egg white should be soft but cooked through and the yolk still runny.

Put the halved tomatoes under the grill with the sausages.

If using, put the baked beans into a pan and heat through over a medium heat.

Heat up a very small amount of oil in another pan, and fry the mushrooms until they are soft.

Put the bacon under the grill along with the sausages and tomatoes. Cook on one side for about 2 minutes, then turn once and repeat. Cook longer if crispier bacon is preferred.

Whilst cooking the bacon, use a toaster or grill to toast the bread until golden.

Serve the eggs, bacon, mushrooms, sausage, tomato and beans onto piping hot plates, with the toast on a separate plate or toast rack. Serve with butter and jam for the toast, and hot tea with milk.

As a timing guide, here is how long (approximately) each item takes to cook:

sausages - 10-15 mins

eggs - 8-10 mins

tomatoes - 6 mins

beans - 5 mins

mushrooms - 4 mins

bacon - 4 mins

toast - 3 mins

However, if you can't cope with doing it all at once (or don't have enough pans / rings), it is possible to keep all of the items warm in a preheated oven, so you can just cook each item in turn and keep it warm until needed. Try not to keep the eggs warm for too long before serving though, as the yolks may harden.

"Unhealthy" Version

They use the same ingredients as above and are more in keeping with the spirit of the dish.

While frying the other ingredients, toast the bread in a grill or toaster. Assuming 2 slices per person, you should have enough by the time you finish the fried food. Be sure to butter them heavily with real butter rather than low-fat spread. Place 4 plates on the bottom shelf of an oven, and one on the top. Set the oven to its lowest heat.

Melt some lard in a large frying pan (enough to make a layer of fat around 1cm deep) and brown the sausage in it over a high heat. Lower heat and cook the sausage for around 4 minutes, leave it in the pan. A lot of fat will leak from the sausages. Add the bacon (2 strips per person rather than 1) and cook to taste, flipping regularly (2-3 minutes for pink, 4-6 for a darker red bacon with crispy fat). The bacon will also release a lot of fat. Transfer the bacon to the warmed dish in the top of the oven. Leave the sausage in the pan.

Add the mushrooms and tomatoes to the pan. Add the tin of baked beans to a small pot and heat on a separate ring. After 2-4 minutes, transfer the mushrooms to the oven with the bacon. Transfer the tomato then too, or leave it a little longer depending on taste.

The sausages should now be dark brown, push them to the side of the pan and break an egg into the fat. Using a spatula, push hot fat over the yolk until it begins to bubble but is still liquid. This should take about 1 minute or so in a hot pan. Set out the 4 warmed plates beforehand and add an egg to each. When done, add the sausage, bacon, and mushrooms. Add the beans last. Serve with the buttered toast on a separate plate.

If you are using black pudding, add it to the fat with the bacon and remove it before the eggs.