Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Joe Ahearne
Cast: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson
Trance opens with art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) explaining to the audience how the lockdown works in the event of an attempted heist. It’s an informative and engaging way to start a film and immediately catches your attention.
Within minutes of the hypothetical situation being explained we see an actual heist unfold in which the numerous checks and security measures are overcome one by one. The security bag containing the art work is stolen by Franck (Vincent Cassel) and his band of thieves but when he gets to his hideout, the artwork is missing. Simon, who was pistol-whipped for trying to stop the heist, is now suffering amnesia and cannot remember where he put it. Franck pays a visit to Simon and begins to take drastic measures to jog his memory. When torturing doesn’t yield results, he turns to a beautiful hypnotherapist named Elizabeth.
Trance is an wild and unpredictable thriller made by Danny Boyle that is an exhibition of excess, volatility and audience provocation. Case in point – a hairless vagina is an important plot point to unfolding the film’s true nature.
The film has drawn some comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock thrillers and I can appreciate the connection. Despite its relatively small cast, Trance is not really a character piece and despite the occasional high speed chase and saucy bedroom scene, its not exactly an action film either. It lies largely in the realm of mystery – the audience is never given sure footing as to the real motivations of the characters and their relationships with one another. As soon as the moment of amnesia is dropped early in the film, we are constantly trying to keep pace with what is real and what is a fabrication. Why was Simon in cahoots with Franck? Why is Elizabeth so quick to aid a group of criminals? Is Franck ultimately a friend to Simon or will he kill him as soon as the information is extracted?
It’s virtually impossible to guess what will unfold in Trance and that is part of the fun. It goes in unexpected directions, has some moments of genuine shock and wraps up with an ending from left field which I think works within the boundaries set down by the film from the get go.
Trance is a film made for film-lovers who happily accept and immerse themselves in tropes like amnesia, femme fatales, double crosses and twist endings. Anyone who says this film isn’t realistic has missed the point entirely. This is Danny Boyle returning to his creative and provocative film making roots. It won’t be remembered as his best work but it is a fantastic work of escapism.