Fresh from his work at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, which made him a national treasure (if he wasn’t already regarded as one), Danny Boyle’s next project is an Inception like mind twister that is actually a remake of very little known TV movie (of the same name), directed by Trance’s very own scriptwriter Joe Ahearne.
The short version of the plot is James McAvoy stars as Simon Newton, a rare art auctioneer, who works as an inside man for criminal gang who intended to steal Francisco Goya’s most famous painting. The plan almost works but when Simon apparently sabotages the mission Franck (Vincent Cassel) deals Simon a nasty blow to the head leaving Simon with amnesia causing him forget the location of the painting which has been removed from the frame during the heist. The gang, led by Franck, torture Simon for the information, clearly he has generally forgotten and thus the gang, reluctantly, try hypnosis.
Danny Boyle’s Trance opens up in spectacular style with the heist taking place and James McAvoy breaking the fourth wall. The visual style of Danny Boyle is clearly evident in the opening scenes, and with a terrific soundtrack from the band Underworld the opening scenes are packed with tension and are a perfect example of Boyle’s highly efficient style of filmmaking. We then eventually find out that Simon was an inside man, and has forgotten where he placed the painting as it has been removed from the frame. Clearly torture doesn’t work so the gang attempt hypnosis and Elizabeth Lamb is introduced and from here on the film descends into Christopher Nolan’s Inception territory.
Trance does not fall apart when the film descends into the hypnosis aspect of the story as the film retains much of its tension, but it does fall apart in the final act when the numerous twists and turns make the film a tad convoluted. Perhaps that is the idea, the viewer is left with very little idea on whose loyalties lie with who and this increases the viewer’s confusion and thus increases the tension, but Boyle and his screenwriters try to cram so much plot twists in a relatively short running time that it leaves the viewer with very little time to think about these plot points. By the final act we question character motivations as well as various plot points that were thinly sketched due to a running time that did not allow the viewer to get used a new plot twist before being faced with another.
The thinly sketched plot, which feels superficial thus not as intelligent as it makes itself out to be, is matched by the equally thinly sketched out characters. Characters motivations are questionable, and one character’s hold over the other two main characters tends to fluctuate considerably as the other two main characters dominate the character in question with brute force. The weakness of this characters is so sudden it doesnt fully work. Yet, the performances are superb, Cassel is suitably suave and meancing as the French criminal Franck and MacAvoy does an equally sterling job. Dawson also shines as Dr Lamb (in a femme fatale role) who is perhaps the most interesting of three main characters, but also the most problematic as the depiction of her character is arguably misogynistic.
Trance is certainly not Danny Boyle’s greatest works, it is too messy and too chaotic for it to be that, but the film has strong sustained tension and leaves the audience in limbo questioning the loyalties of the characters. Danny Boyle’s visual style is clearly evident, and this will please his followers, but Trance, whilst enjoyable, isn’t the film that will be chosen when introuducing someone new to his body of work.