Trance, Danny Boyle’s latest directorial effort, is a difficult first review for me; it’s the morning after the night before and I still can’t pin down my feelings towards it. Perhaps I should have watched G.I. Joe: Retaliation? I’m guessing that’d be a lot easier to write about.
In Trance James McAvoy stars as Simon, an art auctioneer who becomes embroiled in a heist for an extremely valuable (a measly £27m) Goya painting. As the burglary unfolds Simon suffers a serious concussion resulting in amnesia, but not before stashing the artwork somewhere safe. Conveniently, he is the only person who knows its whereabouts, and hotly pursued by the band of thieves led by Franck (Black Swan‘s Vincent Cassell), seeks the help of a hypnotherapist, Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), to help him remember the location of the loot. It’s an interesting set-up and what starts out as a heist film quickly becomes, in true Boyle style, a taught psychological thriller.
Whether it’s horror (28 Days Later), sci-fi (Sunshine) or uplifting dramas (Slumdog Millionaire), Boyle has proven himself as a fearless director who is not afraid to put his own stamp on the finished item. His unique style will probably never be showcased better than in the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony which had the world transfixed; certainly one of the highlights of the whole games. A difficult act to follow then.
The main character’s blow to the head and ensuing confusion is exactly what Boyle wants the audience to feel. As with the director’s other works such as 127 Hours, The Beach and Trainspotting, we are strapped to our characters for a roller coaster ride of hallucinations, flashbacks, dreams and neuroses. This set-up grants Boyle his artistic licence to go crazy with the cinematography and what we witness is akin to an acid trip in Vegas. It’s stylishly shot and the pace does not let up, throwing in several twists and turns which show just how disingenuous some characters have been. The film falters in the last act however, when we are asked to suspend our belief just a little bit too much and I can’t help but feel there is just one hallucination/trance/flashback too many. After I left the screen my mind constantly drifted to Inception and I was left wondering whether we might get a zero-gravity fight in a rotating corridor as a deleted scene on the Blu ray.
McAvoy is as charming as ever and again proves his worth as a leading man; Cassell oozes the dark charisma one would expect from his London-based criminal. Both men manage to navigate the thin line between the realistic and in some scenes the absurd, and amazingly both come off as likeable. The weak link comes in the lovely form of Dawson who, while believable, just can’t hold her own when on screen with her male counterparts and is not allowed as much fun with her straight-laced character. There are a few scenes (some risqué) which prove Dawson has the acting ability for the task and highlights that the problem lies with the material she has been given. No matter how good the chef, the ingredients are what matters.
I find myself still here, the day after, thinking “would I recommend a trip to the cinema to see this?” I think it’s undeniably worth a viewing, but maybe this is one to add to the rental wish list. It’s engaging, yes, but I can’t help but feel a little more could have been done to distinguish this from Boyle’s other works. It’s loud, busy and exhausting; I don’t know about a trance, but it certainly left me dazed.