After the inside man of an auction house heist pulls a double-cross he sustains head injury that leaves him unaware of not only where he stored the swag but why he pulled the double-cross in the first place. Seeking to extract the information from him by any means necessary his partners in crime start him on a course of hypnotism, but it seems the hypnotherapist may be working her own angle.
Danny Boyle is a vastly well-respected director here in the UK. His films perhaps aren’t to everyone’s tastes but there’s generally the sense of a Northern boy done good who, despite his world spanning productions, brings it home from time to time and does one for us.
Combining a Tony Scott like ability to switch visual styles with Richard Donner’s sense of genre hopping, it’s quite impossible to predict the kind of film Boyle will embark on from one year to the next. It could be a tense character drama (Shallow Grave), urban slice of life (Trainspotting), post-apocalyptic horror (28 Days Later), science-fiction (Sunshine), life-affirming-genre-defying-award-baiter (Slumdog Millionaire) or in the case of Trance, a suspenseful crime-thriller. Love or loath his films, you can always expect a spin on visual storytelling that separates them from the pack.
Certainly Trance ticks the boxes you would expect it to for a Boyle production. Firstly that the imagery goes above and beyond what the script necessarily requires, making it a better film than it potentially deserves to be (much in the same way that, say, Panic Room or Limitless were).
Secondly it has a killer soundtrack, the selected tracks pumping you up while perfectly conveying the emotion of the scenes.
And third it has an excellently cast line up of leads that include James McAvoy as the central amnesiac, Vincent Cassel as the sinister mastermind and Rosario Dawson as the (scheming?) hypnotherapist.
There’s no getting around the fact that, for the most part, the story is quite ludicrous, and while it is somewhat grounded by the excellent performances it nevertheless has its fare share of movie logic and, as I like to call them, The Helicopter Behind The Cliff scenes (you know the sort, where you can’t hear the chopper until you can see it).
With this though, Boyle uses the nature of the subject matter to keep you on the back foot, to the point where, using a combination of chronology shifts, in-trance hallucinations and moment to moment revelations, by mid-way into the second act you’re unsure of very reality of the characters’ dilemmas.
Of course, with a film that deals with hypnotism and states of mind, much like with films about magicians and conmen, you find yourself constantly looking for the lie, trying to predict if you’re being played as a viewer and what in fact the twist is, all the while hoping that your guess is right but that the makers have an extra trick up their sleeve so as to make the film worthy your time.
Trance never pretends that it isn’t trying to trick you and though you might guess a few of the twist in the tale, or a sense of the general direction, I’d be very surprised if you connected all the dots to pre-empt the eventual endgame. That’s not to suggest that you’ll be wholly satisfied with the results, but it’s always nice to be a little outsmarted by a film.
It’s a fun flick even if, considering its seriousness of execution, it’s a little silly, but there’s enough going on to make it worth the effort of catching it while it’s at the cinema.
B- grade – for storytelling
A- grade – for direction
B+ grade – for music
B+ grade – for acting
Overall grade B+
Trance is currently on release in the UK and goes on limited release in the US from April 5th.