Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge
Stars: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel
You know how there are films, actors, directors, etc, that people keep telling you are extraordinary and you definitely need to see their films? Yea, me too. I’m usually the one telling people that they MUST watch this or that for reasons I can never verbalise in person without deteriorating into complete nerd state (yes high-pitched squealing included). Danny Boyle is one of those directors who I’ve heard the name of in different scenarios and people have raved about. And so when Trance was realised I was excited because, you know, Danny Boyle directed it; and James McAvoy is in it; and it’s sci-fi thriller; it’s right up my twisted alley. But five minutes into the film I remembered what Boyle was famous for: Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire and the London Olympics. Two films that, although are cinematically and narratively brilliant, I never wanted to watch a second time. And Trance is another one of those films. I shall put it into my box of “Films I’ll never watch again” along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Vanilla Sky, A Clockwork Orange, and a whole array of others.
Trance is about Simon (McAvoy) who is an art auctioneer at a reputable auction house in London. He teams up with criminal Frank (Vincent Cassel) to steal a painting to repay his gambling debts. But he gets knocked out, forgets where he put the painting and so Frank is a bit cranky at Simon. Who wouldn’t be if you’d just lost $25mil? Their solution to recovering Simon’s memory is to send him to a hypnotherapist. Coz that is always the answer. The hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) they choose at random ends up being a little more than expected. And so begins the trippy adventure. Trance is comparable to Inception in that you never really know whether the scene you are witnessing is real or part of the hypnotherapy. But it does grab you and yanks you along through the confusion and delusion of Simon to recover the events of what happened to the lost painting.
James McAvoy has this wonderful but eery ability to make you like Simon even when you find out what kind of person he is. He captures the character so flawlessly that when the twisted world unravels it’s hard to believe. McAvoy is perfection in this role as you want him to get away with it even at the end. Rosario Dawson is also the perfect fit for her role as the hypnotherapist as she portrays a smartness and power that is hard to do, especially when using sexual power to manipulate. The slow reveal of the truth with Danny Boyle’s shifty, unfocused cinematic craft gives this film a very dark feel and doesn’t leave you with a happy ending. The film unveils the narrative in a clever form, using the cuts and glimpses, the voice-over and soundtrack, to produce a thriller that keeps you guessing until the end.
I probably won’t rave about this film because there were parts of it that were visually disturbing – I think Boyle has issues with bodily functions and probably needs therapy – but it was a thrilling ride.