Amnesia, long lost lovers, slimy villains; sounds like a soap opera but it's all packed into Trance, the new film from filmmaker Danny Boyle. While Boyle's frenetic direction excels, the film is always one long lost evil twin away from deteriorating to complete melodrama.
An art auctioneer, Simon (James McAvoy), works with a group of criminals to steal a painting but the artwork goes missing during the heist. Only Simon knows the painting's whereabouts, but he can't remember due to a head injury so the crooks hire a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to help find it.
Once past the straightforward robbery that launches the plot, it's the journey into Simon's mind via various stages of hypnosis that allows Boyle to unleash his vivid style. It's a strange mix of various cerebral vistas that the characters inhabit while searching for the location of the painting. It drifts between the gory dreams of Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street to the altering perspectives of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. There are moments where Boyle paints different scenes with bold block colours as we dive further into Simon's memories and emotional states. It's as if Boyle has been inspired by the way light passes through the eye to interpret and catalogue the spectrum of the world around us; it's a striking touch from the accomplished director to make a mindscape believable.
The plot is wrapped in plenty of mystery and as the line blurs between reality and the hypnotic state, screenwriters Joe Ahearne and John Hodge keep escalating the intrigue. There is plenty of time for second guesses until Trance endures an aneurism revealing its big secrets. Long monologues explaining every plot detail and character motivation in the finale bursts Boyle's bubble in a similar way that Ang Lee's Life of Pi lost puff in its finale. It’s as if Boyle forgot his power as a director to show and not tell.
McAvoy is a good actor but he struggles to carry a lot of Trance. As McAvoy’s character is blasted with the films revelations we’re treated to various facial expressions more at home in a bathroom after eating a bowl of concrete. Vincent Cassell appears playing (surprise, surprise) a criminal and delivers his special brand of greasy euro-felon as you’d expect from a man blessed with his leer. Dawson brings the mystique and acts as sort of femme fatale, but is burdened by her exposition heavy dialogue.
Booming from the speakers throughout the film is the score from Boyle's long time music collaborator Rick Smith that sounds like it would be more at home at a 90s dance rave.
Trance contains Boyle's special brand of chic but it’s part mind-meld and part mind-mute.
[rating=2] and a half
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies