Running Time 117 minutes
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel
(Movie House Dublin Road Preview 25/03/2013)
ACCORDING to Rosario Dawson’s character Elizabeth in Danny Boyle’s latest feature: “Roughly 5% of the population are extremely suggestible to hypnotherapy.” Luckily for us one of those people is at the heart of the British director’s mind-bending psychological thriller. Trance is a difficult film to really classify, crossing a variety of genres, with shades of The Thomas Crown Affair mixed with a hint Chris Nolan’s Inception. It plays out like a classic Hitchcockian thriller, but with a head-spinning twist.
James McAvoy plays Simon, a gambling addict and fine art auctioneer who has engineered the theft of a priceless painting from his London employers to settle his growing debts. But when he double-crosses his co-conspirators and keeps the painting for himself, he ends up taking a severe blow to head from the gang’s leader Franck (Vincent Cassel). Knocked unconscious and unable to fully recollect the day’s events Simon can’t even remember where he has stashed the painting.
Reluctant to accept his outlandish claims, the criminal gang return to forcibly make Simon remember, when brute force and intimidation fail they decide to use a less orthodox approach. Franck decides that hypnosis might be the answer to unlocking Simon’s memories. Picking a hypnotist seemingly at random, Simon has an almost instant rapport with Rosario Dawson’s beautiful character Elizabeth. She reluctantly agrees to take him on, and their sessions begin.
It’s hard to talk in detail about the film’s plot without spoiling the experience for viewers, its rubix cube plot is full of misdirection and intrigue that slowly twist and turn before finally revealing itself. What starts out as a simple attempt to recover a lost painting quickly descends into a fascinating insight into Simon’s subconscious and psyche. The concept reminded me of films like Total Recall and Memento which shared similar ideas.
The feature plays out a breakneck pace, thundering through its one hour 40 minute runtime without ever pausing for breath. At times it’s all a little style over substance, lacking any real depth to match Boyle’s slick presentation skills. There were moments that felt a little gratuitous and only present to titillate viewers, Rosario Dawson’s much discussed full frontal nude scene springs instantly to mind.
McAvoy is great in this film, putting in a solid performance that holds everything firmly together. The character of Simon is a highly complex one, as the layers of his psyche are slowly stripped away, by the end of the film he’s an almost different character. Despite McAvoy’s great turn it’s Rosario Dawson who steals the film’s limelight. Her character has all the characteristics of an iconic femme-fatale and to her credit the actress throws herself completely into the role.
As a filmmaker Boyle continues to defy classification, drifting from one cinematic genre to another with relative ease, from horror, science-fiction to Bollywood he has competently handled them all. Trance might not see him at his best, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a flop by any means. It’s a stylish and polished feature that’s wonderfully accompanied by an upbeat dancey soundtrack. He brings a much-needed edge to a film that in the hands of another director might have been little more than a formulaic erotic thriller.
After wowing a nation by masterminding the stunning opening ceremony to last year’s London Olympics, this film is such a massive change in direction. It will likely divide audiences, with some viewers loving its outlandish concept, while others will find the final revelations too hard to swallow.
Personally I can’t recommend this film enough, I’m such a fan of Boyle’s work, much like Quentin Tarantino he’s a directing chameleon with each project more different from the last. In my opinion this is one of the first must see films of the year that demands repeated viewings to be truly enjoyed.
By William McClean