After wowing the world with last year’s stunning Olympic opening ceremony, Danny Boyle steps back behind the camera to concoct a high-octane art heist actioner. Trance enthralls with its hypnosis-induced audacity but the stupor quickly wears thin thanks to a perplexing, labyrinthine plot.

Simon (James McAvoy) is an auctioneer at a pricey London art sale who gets wrapped up in a criminal movement to steal an irreplaceable Goya. In a move to pay off his crippling gambling debts, Simon is hired as the inside man in the gang led by chief swindler Franck (Vincent Cassell). Slick and intriguing, the first half-hour of the film resembles a smooth, gratifying crime-caper.

At the vital moment in the multi-million pound raid, Simon is overcome with greed and makes a move to pinch the masterpiece for himself, only for Franck to knock him out with a severe blow to the head. Dilemma. Simon has hid the goods, and when Franck comes calling, he is hit by a stark bout of amnesia. In an attempt to make Simon remember, Franck employs the alluring hypnotist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to nudge his temporal lobe into sync.

The plot descends into a mind-boggling jaunt as Simon’s grasp of reality is manipulated beyond his control. Distorted false memories pan out creating a multitude of murky plot developments.

Compared to recent films that deploy the human mind as their setting, Trance lacks the refinement of Scorsese’s Shutter Island or Nolan’s or the grotesque absurdity of Lynch’s Mullholland Drive (apart from one memorable scene to look out for). Like those titles, this is an ambitious piece of cinema but its convoluted storyline and jarringly frantic pace ultimately makes for unsatisfying viewing.

It is these perpetual twists, turns and sometimes bizarre – almost laughable – moments that make the film something of a tangled mess. It is a shame because the action is supremely intensified, steered by Boyle’s artful direction, making it a vociferous attack on the senses.

Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Stars: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel
Runtime: 101 min
Country: UK

Film Rating: ★★½☆☆

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6 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Kevin Matthews

    It’s Boyle, I’m already sold. Certainly seems like a strange one though.

  2. Profile photo of Chris Knipp

    I’m looking forward to seeing this Friday, when it opens here. Whatever its faults I expect to enjoy the ride.

  3. Profile photo of Chris Knipp

    Having seen it, I completely agree with you, J-P. I could not state it any better.

  4. Profile photo of Kevin Matthews

    Wow, I absolutely loved it. My review is in so will wait to debate it more when people can see the individual points, but it took familiar tropes and really freshened them up IMO. I didn’t get the neo-noir vibe, unlike Mr. Chard, but I certainly picked up a Euro-crime/Giallo aesthetic which highly impressed me.

  5. Profile photo of John Chard

    “I didn’t get the neo-noir vibe, unlike Mr. Chard”

    Classic femme fatale, classic male dupes, classic noir thematics. I don’t get how anyone here can’t see that? Even before the visual smarts are discussed…

  6. Profile photo of Kevin Matthews

    Oh, I noticed some of the tropes, I just got more of the Euro-vibe from it than neo-noir, though I suppose the two are very close. I try to explain myself better in the review, honest.

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