Trance, director Danny Boyle’s newest film, is a slick, stylistic, often surreal thriller, a movie that seems rooted in the post-Tarantino period of the 90s. Boyle mixes stories and blends characters for a sometimes disorienting but often entertaining piece of pop art.
I’ve admired Boyle’s earlier movies for his use of black humor and violence, but as of late his films have grown more sympathetic, sentimental, and, in my opinion, weaker, such as Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. Trance may be Boyle returning to his earlier roots, feeling grittier and darker than the director’s more recent work, having much in common with Trainspotting than Millions.
Trance opens with auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) handling the sale of Francisco Goya’s “Witches in the Air.” During the transaction, a group of robbers, led by Franck (Vincent Cassel), break in and attempt to steal the painting. Franck knocks Simon out and grabs the portrait, only to discover later that the canvas is missing.
As we discover soon, this was all supposed to be an inside job. Simon called Franck and his men in order to steal the painting so he could pay off his large gambling debts. As it turns out, Simon double crossed Franck and hid the painting, but due to the accident can’t remember where he hid it. In an ultimate attempt to discover where he hid the painting, Simon hires Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), a skilled hypnosis who promises that she would be able to retrieve the information—if she gets an equal share of pay from Franck.
The film is centered on Elizabeth’s attempts to discover where the painting in and Boyle makes his audiences travel through Simon’s mind, transporting us into Simon’s own eyes. Trance takes an Inception-like path, making the viewer question what is real and what isn’t, particularly during the middle of the movie, which makes the film incredibly intriguing. However, Trance doesn’t stay on this path too long, instead turning on multiple plot twists and a somewhat unsatisfactory ending that lays out the plot directly to viewers (I would preferred an ending much more ambiguous a la Mulholland Drive). I was somewhat frustrated by the film’s curvy path and felt some of the side characters to be weakly drawn, but while Boyle may not have complete control on his material, he keeps the film at a quick pace and I found Trance to be wildly entertaining. While flawed, Trance may be the director’s best and most enjoyable movie in the past ten years.