Trance, director Danny Boyle’s gonzo art-crime/hypnotherapy noir thriller, is a fast and twisty psychological puzzler that requires an audience who appreciates a great deal of mind-bending. While the film starts off with its wheels firm on the road, the finale is bound to give the most intellectual viewer a bad case of whiplash. As the tagline warns, Trance is “a provocative action-packed thrill ride”. And that it is, too much so. It’s the kind of film that’s bound to divide audiences.
Lead by a voiceover by James McAvoy, the picture opens with a group of daring thieves stealing a Goya masterpiece worth millions. The band of burglars are led by a Frenchman named Franck (Vincent Cassel) who is in cahoots with inside man Simon (McAvoy), an auctioneer at the fine art museum. During the heist Simon bumps his head and blacks out. When he awakens he loses all memory of the event and more importantly the whereabouts of the missing painting. His criminal friends are more than displeased with his answers and force him, at gunpoint, to see a renowned hypnotist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson). It’s not long before Elizabeth realizes that Simon’s life might be in danger and offers to help him.
There is no doubt that the film’s visual style is sleek, but the script’s multiple twists are mind numbing. Everything plays out like a lurid nightmare, questioning the character’s reality. Boyle gets great performances out of his cast, but overall the characters feel like the typical thriller archetypes. The only exception here is that the bad guys and good guys alternate from scene to scene. Boyle throws everything and the kitchen sinc at his audience, including an unnecessary close-up full frontal nude scene by Dawson. On the other hand, Trance is never boring. It might have the makeup of a fever dream and has too many things happening at once, but it delivers on its promise of being an original “thrill ride”.
Trance isn’t as satisfying as it should be. It’s the kind of film you want to like, but can’t.