I think I have a decent working knowledge of recent cinema, but I admit that I had no idea director Danny Boyle (127 Hours) was such a prolific filmmaker. His name wasn’t on my radar until 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, which was amazing. I looked at his filmography and realized that there are a few more of his movies that I’d seen, including 28 Days Later and The Beach. I enjoy his work because he has no discernible niche, and his repertoire reflects a unique versatility.
His latest offering is Trance, a reality-bending thriller starring James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class), Vincent Cassel (Black Swan), and Rosario Dawson (Unstoppable). McAvoy leads as Simon, a young auctioneer who sells valuable paintings off for a Sotheby’s-like company. The movie begins with Simon as narrator, describing his duties as auctioneer, including a detailed description of their robbery protocol. Robberies used to happen with greater frequency in decades past, as thugs would simply storm into the auction with guns drawn, taking the precious art by force. When Vincent Cassel’s character Frank and his cohorts conspire to steal a valuable Goya painting, they display an intimate knowledge of the robbery protocol that could have only resulted from inside information, which implicates Simon. When their brilliant heist goes awry, Simon is the only one who can provide answers. The stolen Goya has been lost, and only he knows its whereabouts. Unfortunately, during the botched heist he suffered an amnesia-causing injury.
Complicating matters is Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Dawson), a hypno-therapist who believes she can unlock Simon’s memory through co-operative therapy. She places him in a trance, a mental state where he is highly susceptible to suggestion. Elizabeth helps Simon navigate the deepest recesses of his mind and he begins to recall certain events. But are these memories real or false? The lines between doctor and patient and reality and fantasy all become blurred, giving the film a surreal, moody quality. There was foreshadowing throughout, which only added to the mystery and atmospheric intrigue that Boyle so deftly created.
Vincent Cassel was very effective as Frank, giving the character an unexpected depth. One minute he seems like Simon’s tormentor; the next minute he is a concerned friend. Rosario Dawson literally bared it all, boldly appearing nude from head to toe more than once. I couldn’t believe she showed everything…even the “honeypot!” I respect her dedication to the role, because although a close up of her hoo-haa may seem gratuitous, it actually made sense for her character to expose herself in such fashion. James McAvoy ably exhibited Simon’s downward spiral, beginning the film upbeat and confident and ending it in a very dark place as he questions all around him.
The camera angles and cinematography were superb, as some scenes resembled the famous paintings that were featured in the movie. Boyle’s use of color and overhead camera shots elevated the film to another level. The writing and performances were nearly flawless, and the script was so cleverly written that Trance bears repeated viewings to be fully understood. I found it confusing at times, but I attribute this muddling to my own lack of understanding rather than a flaw in Boyle’s writing. Again, a second viewing is advisable. If you appreciate suspense, you will not be disappointed. Grade: A-