By Dan Metcalf
Clipper Film Correspondent
Trance (Fox Searchlight)
Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images, and language.
Starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson,Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, Wahab Sheikh, Mark Poltimore, Tuppence Middleton.
Written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge.
Directed by Danny Boyle.
One thing I like about Danny Boyle is his ability to successfully move between film genres, always generating something unique. It's hard to believe he's the same guy who brought us Trainspotting, 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire – three very different and popular films. Even though Boyle has the ability to jump from very different stories, he does have a few quirks that give his films a unique “Boyle-esque” flavor. You may recognize some of those Boyle identifiers in Trance, a new film starring James McAvoy in theaters this weekend.
McAvoy stars as Simon, an art auction worker who is drawn into the heist of Goya's famous “Witches in the Air” painting. During an auction, armed thugs break in to steal the painting, but as Simon manages to get the artwork to the entrance of a vault, he encounters Franck (Vincent Cassel), the gang's leader. Franck hits Simon in the head, knocking him unconscious. After the robbery, neither the police, Simon or Franck can find the painting. Later, it is discovered that Simon is really part of the gang and was supposed to be a “man on the inside.” The blow to Simon's head causes him to lose his memory, prompting Franck to employ a hypnotist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to see if she can awaken Simon's subconscious and discover where the painting went.
As Simon gets closer to Elizabeth, we discover that perhaps there is more going on than just an art heist. Elizabeth begins to get inside the heads of all the thieves, and becomes intimate with Franck.
In the end, we also discover that Simon and Elizabeth are not all they claim to be, revealing a surprise ending (that you see coming early).
In many ways, Trance is vintage Boyle, with use of an electronic soundtrack, grisly images and a fair amount of genius editing. The trouble is, Trance is slightly confusing, even if you know very early on that there will be a surprise ending. Although unique on its own, Trance's surprise conclusion is also punctuated by a cliff-hanger reminiscent of 2010's Inception, another mind-bending film. It's not exactly a “spinning top,” but pretty close.
James McEvoy provides an adequate performance while leading a equally adequate ensemble cast, including Vincent Cassel as a man who may be the protagonist or antagonist, depending on how you think the story winds up. Rosario Dawson stands out as well, and also bares a lot of skin in the movie.
While a good film, Trance is not one of Boyle's best. It seems there are is too much going on in Trance to keep an audience completely invested in that surprise ending. There is the familiar Boyle “shock and awe,” but very little of the charm you'd come to expect from the acclaimed director.