In order to recover a stolen, then lost, painting, art auctioneer Simon teams up with a hypnotherapist. The boundaries between desire, reality and hypnotic suggestion soon begin to blur, and the stakes rise dangerously fast.
Danny Boyle appears to have been lying low since 127 Hours in 2010, but when you think about it, the director has been as busy as ever, just not on the big screen. In between 127 Hours and Trance, Boyle brought Frankenstein to the stage and produced one of the most lavish opening ceremonies ever seen, for the London Olympics. All the while, he was working on Trance. No, I have no idea when his last day off was.
The story is nicely twisty, but not so complicated that the audience cannot follow it. As Simon, played by James McAvoy, delves further into his mind to find a lost memory, he becomes both victim and aggressor and as he learns more about the incident that left him an amnesiac, the audience learns more about Simon and the nature of revenge and memory. James McAvoy carries the film ably, and creates a character that is relatable and kind, but McAvoy makes sure that there is plenty going on underneath the surface.
Rosario Dawson, as Elizabeth the hypnotherapist, and Vincent Cassel, as Franck the thief, make up the rest of the central cast. Both allow Simon’s fear and confusion to feed their convictions and, as Simon loses himself, they become clearer.
Screenwriter John Hodge – who has given us some fantastic movies in the past, let’s try and forget about The Sweeney – has created a world that is recognisable but unfamiliar. The audience is never quite aware of what is real and what is not and, as Simon grapples with reality, so does the viewer. Danny Boyle balances the film out so that character and plot get equal time on screen, but this may be where the film loses some of its intrigue.
Plot twists are obvious, if you are paying attention, and a little more mystery would certainly have helped the film. Trance plays a little like a small-scale version of Inception – the comparison was bound to happen – but it is not quite as detailed, ambitious or intricate as Nolan’s film. However, Trance is still dark, violent and incredibly entertaining, and Danny Boyle allows the film to jump genre – from noir to thriller to psychological cat and mouse games – with ease. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle’s work adds to the feeling of disorientation and mystery as familiar surroundings distort and change. As well as this, Mantle’s use of colour throughout the film is rich and slightly otherworldly.
Trance is a wonderfully acted, twisty thriller that is not quite as clever as it ought to be. However, the incredible performances, soundtrack and gorgeous cinematography go some way to making up for the guessable plot and even though it falls shy of greatness, Trance is a genuinely entertaining and thrilling thriller.