‘No piece of art.. is worth a human life.’ Masterfully crafting an eclectic Olympic opening ceremony full of grandeur, its esteemed organiser Danny Boyle certainly had no qualms in toying with this notion, parachuting our generously aged monarch out of a helicopter. Sarcasm aside, the Lancashire born director’s patriotism is evident in his genre hopping back-catalogue. Whilst many of his contemporaries have been seduced by the lure of big budget Hollywood, he has remained humble attempting to achieve his cinematic feats with unconventional style and modest resources. Plunging into the darkest corners of our mind, has ‘Trance’ arrived to the big screen in peak condition?
Setting the pace in exhilarating fashion, Boyle immediately propels us into the world of Delancy’s, a highly regarded auctioneering house. Complete with measured voiceover, Simon (James Mcavoy) provides a handy walkthrough on how one would approach stealing such a prized possession. Enticed by the hefty price tag of a Francisco Goya painting to help relieve the crippling debt from his gambling days, his alignment with a brute gang headed up by Vincent Cassel’s Franck proves far from fruitful.
Hospitalised after a hefty blow to the skull, Simon struggles with his ‘amnesiac’ state as he attempts to remember where the painting is hiding. The unpleasent nature of torture is soon replaced by therapeutic ‘healing’ , as he enlists the help of hypnotherapist Elizabeth played by Rosario Dawson. Willingly tapping into his subconscious, the lines between reality and dream state are soon blurred as the film’s narrative soon emerges as an intricate and often surprising beast.
Creating a visual aesthetic befitting of its incoporation of art, Boyle’s fondness for disorientating and panoramic camerawork as sequences merge, striking use of primary colours and abject imagery, all aid the film’s attempts to keep the audience intrigued and on its toes.
Refusing to let its irrefutable style stifle the substance, the film serves as a deconstruction of human greed within the confines of a high stakes world and the psychological ramifications on one’s psyche, as we are easily manipulated. Whilst from a pure entertainment standpoint, ‘Trance’ is a fiendishly unpredictable jigsaw puzzle as Boyle spoonfeeds us the details and playfully subverts audience expectations of the characters involved.
Escaping the trap of being reduced to mere plot devices, Mcavoy sells the premise with charisma and an underlying brittle emotional core as Simon. After his turn as mindreading Professor X in X Men: First Class, his tortured role-reversal here will likely prompt inspired comic potshots. As Franck, Vincent Cassel once again is a strong on screen presence. The revelation here, is Rosario Dawson. Upstaging the male contingent with sassiness and understated dominance, her role as Elizabeth brims with refreshing depth.
Granted, the visual metaphors occasionally lack subtlety and its audacious, frenetic finale may prove too overwhelming in some quarters. Despite such miniscule flaws, ‘Trance’ is another timely reminder of the bold brilliance of Boyle. A gloriously visceral mind-f**k with a pulse pounding soundtrack, that entertains and intellectually rewards in equal measure.
Review by Darryl Griffiths