Danny Boyle’s current film, “Trance,” lives up to its title as a visually hypnotic thriller about the complex interstices of the human brain—and relationships.
James McAvoy plays an art expert who gets himself in hot water when he tries to pay off his drug and gambling debts by hooking up with a gang, led by Vincent Cassel, that’s planning a huge art heist.
The well-planned crime goes awry at the last second, the art expert’s brain and memory are grievously compromised—and, for the life of him, he can’t recall where he’s hidden the painting by Goya that was the object of all their concupiscent desires! The rest of the story is a multilevel effort on everybody’s part to make the frustrated amnesiac remember, so they can enjoy the fruits of their complex plan gone gruesomely wrong.
The solution to the problem involves hiring the services of a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to “cure” McAvoy of his amnesia. The plot thickens when it turns out that she knows much more about the case than expected!
Is she psychic? Did she know the perpetrators of the crime before they even planned it? Did she in fact plant the idea of the heist in McAvoy’s mind, in the first place?
These and other contrary thoughts make viewing “Trance” an occasionally frustrating experience because, just when you think you’ve got the sequence of past events down pat, Boyle winkingly slides in a new detail that brings your carefully constructed house of cards down—and you have to start all over again! —Well, whoever said hypno-dramatics were a walk in the park?
For our part, we found the harum-scarum plotting more intriguing than off-putting. We also liked Boyle’s propensity for making his characters complex people who end up surprising even themselves with the way they keep evolving.
In addition, the film’s visuals are a feast, not just for the senses, but also for the sensibilities, as Boyle stylishly tells his sinuously sinister story.
Yes, the stylish touches do get to feel too self-conscious and thus shallow after a while, but the principal cast members’ textured portrayals mitigate at least part of that problem.
And, the time comes when the movie’s storytelling gets to be too repetitive and high-strung to be truly insightful and involving. —But, viewing “Trance” in transit is still quite a tantalizing trip!