Danny Boyle has become a national treasure over the past few years, by achieving international success with the brilliant Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 and then of course being at the helm of the extremely successful opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic games. His new film, the psychological thriller Trance with an all star cast of James Mcavoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson represents Boyle’s return to cinema after the Olympics and his triumphant take on Frankenstein at the London National Theatre. It’s a film filled with plot twists and intriguing ideas and concepts that really demands the audience’s full attention in order to keep up, it also represents Boyle’s first foray into the thriller genre since his debut Shallow Grave, therefore this is the director in his element, in his preferred genre; in that sense the film is a disappointment. The film’s focus on the mind and memories leads to overcooked scenes that appear perhaps too chaotic for their own good; despite this, for any Danny Boyle fan, Trance is an intriguing watch.
At a glance, the plot seems simple; an art gallery auctioneer, Simon (Mcavoy) is the inside man on an art heist led by Franck (Cassel). After being hit on the head during the job, he loses his memory, subequently forgetting where he stashed the painting. His partners take him to a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth(Dawson) who they hope can obtain the memory. Until Dawson’s arrival, Trance is essentially a British crime caper, as it appears essentially to be an art heist gone wrong. It echoes films like Snatch or Layer cake, especially in the opening scene where the camera follows our supposed hero during the heist, accompanied by Rick Smith’s intense soundtrack which reminds you of his work on Trainspotting. Dawson’s first appearance really begins to change the film’s plot and even it’s genre; it begins to echo a few Christopher Nolan films in particular, such as Inception and Memento, one of the lines in the film being “We keep secrets from ourselves and call it ‘forgetting’.”.
Following on from this transition, Trance does become rather complicated and demands the audience to pay full attention, as the plot twists eventually flip the film on it’s head, putting Dawson’s character in the position of protagonist. Like many classic noir heroines, you’ll never be exactly sure of where her alliances lie, but there’s enough going on here with her that after the various reveals it would probably be interesting to watch Trance all over again just to see what Dawson does with her performance. In that sense, a second viewing is definitely encouraged.
With momentum and tension building, some scenes towards the end seem slightly overcooked and over the top, one in particular including unbelievable special effects of half a head speaking, (don’t get carried away there, it is literally a head chopped in half but continuing to talk) and another where Dawson walks into a room completely naked, and Boyle doesn’t hold back.
Despite this, Trance’s final plot twist and eventual conclusion work, it is neither simple, nor predictable. The highlight of the film however lies with Dawson’s performance of Dr Elizabeth Lamb, she flows through the film as a much needed source of calmness, she keeps her cool whilst the male characters are losing theirs. Trance is a must see for any big Boyle fan as it is an intriguing piece of work, which differs from anything he has done in the past, although it will never be compared to any of his greats, such as Trainspotting and 28 Days Later.