Made during his off-days while working on the London 2012 opening ceremony, I think it’s fair to say Trance was something of a release for Danny Boyle from the pressure and regulations of working on the Games.
Tangled up with a small gang of criminals, art auctioneer Simon (McAvoy) is the inside man in what should be the simple theft of a painting. Knowing the procedure inside out when robbers hit their auction house, Simon tells ringleader Franck (Cassel) where they’ll be before safeguarding the art, but when he’s hit over the head with the butt of a gun and it’s later revealed he had double-crossed the gangsters, Simon finds himself in a spot of bother when he can’t remember exactly where he hid their prize. From there it’s all down to a hypnotherapist, Elizabeth (Dawson), to see if she can tease out what Simon’s mind has forgotten, but as you might guess, it’s not all plain sailing.
You can tell from the off Danny Boyle is having fun and letting go on Trance. It has the playful nature of a director whose actors wholly trust in his abilities and who is backed by a studio that’ll let him run free knowing he still has the responsibility and craft to make the film something special. Trance is a thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride, pretty silly at times, but so smooth and slickly made, it’s just so easy to be swept away.
The three leads are all as fantastic as the next. As Simon start to reveal deeper secrets, Dawson’s hypnotherapist a wonderful play on the classic femme fetale and the wicked Franck turning gooey for Elizabeth’s allure, they go through transformations so subtle they creep up on you before you know it; at last here’s a movie where character development hits home.
Shot on the streets of East London, Trance is also probably the most stylish film of the year. With the shimmer and gloss of an fashion film, this is really a feast for the eyes as much as the mind. Boyle is trying things that push the boundary and there’s a naughtiness you wouldn’t normally expect. Sex and nudity are a constant theme – with both positive and negative results – though you feel Boyle always knows what he’s doing and things never get out of control.
As things start to unravel and Trance tears towards a truly riveting finale, all of the film’s good work is almost undone by a couple of unnecessary closing scenes. Though it unfortunately falls foul to Hollywood’s obsession with ramming things down your throat when the audience will have already made sense of the twists and turns, it still ends a very thought provoking piece of work, if not quite the perfection you want it to be.
Only for a handful of filmmakers could a cultured movie like Trance not be at the summit of their filmography, but it still fights to be pretty close to the top. A thoroughly enjoyable experience that will yield more upon your second and third viewings, Trance is one of the current frontrunners for film of the year; a complex, breakneck and stirring modern thriller, superb in both execution and conceptual ideas even if it is a little over-indulgent.