‘Trance’ Review

Danny Boyle delivers an impressive puzzling thriller


You’d think making Trance during the planning and preparation of banging drums and exuberant choreography that comes with Olympic opening ceremonies would undermine the film’s qualities. Not for Danny Boyle though, who pours his visionary stamp and the dark side of his psyche into this puzzling thriller to produce something existential and vibrant that has always come with his films.

James McAvoy plays Simon, an art auctioneer whose knocked on the head in the process of a robbery – headed by gang leader Frank (played by Vincent Cassel) and can’t recall the days events, but importantly, the whereabouts of the stolen goods he had once possessed. In comes Elizabeth (played by Rosario Dawson), a doctor of psychotherapy who uses hypnosis and tools of her trade to delve deep into Simon’s mind to unlock the location of the missing item, with a more complex and deeper revelation hiding behind the characters.

Most striking of all aspects is the neo-noir quality it has. Guns in the draw, double-crossing and hands tied are all traits of a bygone genre age, but Boyle uses this to his advantage by using the relationship between the three central characters and just the entire mood of the film to create an unnerving and ultimately dark atmosphere. Despite the fact Danny Boyle’s visual ticks are all plain to see. Even more so, this could be seen as a character piece in which each interaction with the three still has an untrustworthy feel which raises questions and tension for as the film progresses.

With an opening that’s very Bond-esque, and comparisons to the likes of Inception and Total Recall are all justified with it’s use of memory and dream, but the oddest comparison would be it’s strange tie in with Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In the same sense that you have a central character who becomes an unreliable narrator and being conscious of his surroundings but then finding out as the film goes on that not all is as it seems; And with James McAvoy’s character you very much get that. McAvoy plays very well the idea of the deranged guy who can’t get a handle on the understandings and being manipulated by the people around him, almost as such as Leonardo DiCaprio’s Richard character in Boyle’s underrated gem The Beach. Falling for the femme fatale, again nodding back to noir story telling, McAvoy seems to travel along the performance spectrum and goes to town really well being the subject of the film’s psycho analysis, with his character being put under the microscope.

In that femme fatale, you have Rosario Dawson who almost becomes the pivotal piece out of the three and becomes the classic thriller temptress by using her knowledge and beauty to get what she wants, despite not always being in control of the two men who have fallen for her. Battling McAvoy for her hand, you have Vincent Cassel whose played the gang leader character before in the Ocean’s series and does that in-charge dangerous performance once more. Only with the downside being his character not being as menacing or ruthless as he should, almost coming across as being the happy friendly helper, even when he’s lost millions of pounds in the form of a Goya painting.

In essence, this very much feels like Boyle has gone back to his Trainspotting and Shallow Grave days, something that feels almost comforting for him after having the wide success of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. It zips along very nicely with an extraordinary soundtrack as with all his previous work, and thankfully ties up lose plot ends that were dangling from the start. But more importantly, it shows Danny Boyle‘s range and his desire to take up the different challenge of each and every film he chooses, and can still deliver something great each time.