Filmmaker Danny Boyle’s Trance is a descent into an alluring and unreliable mind. It’s thrilling, beautifully vivid and yet another reason to worship at the alter of Boyle (Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire).
Simon (James McAvoy) is a degenerate gambler up to his eyeballs in debt who barters his ‘insider’ position at an auction house with a group of thieves in exchange for clearing the red from his ledger. When the heist goes wrong and Simon can’t remember where he stashed the priceless painting, his crew (Vincent Cassell et. al.) suggest hypnotherapist, Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), who appears to hold the key to unlock his mind.
Boyle is an artist. Trance is framed and coloured like the panels of a pulp comic thriller. Jon Harris’ editing in Trance wondrously submerges you into a controlled disorientation. The omniscient introduction from McAvoy is firmly in a tangible reality only to transition the dizzying subjective perspective with deft shifts in point of view, colour and focus as the hypnotherapy creates imaginary locations and scenes stretching back to memories just out of reach. However, don’t think of this as a stylish cerebral examination of consciousness- Boyle has the impulses of a voyeur. There’s cringe-worthy action and torture that you can feel; gore and doses of the glorious female form shown in all their grotesque or sublime. And characteristic of Boyle films, Trance features a pulsating electronic score by Rick Smith that forms an essential foundation beat to the rhythmic pace of the film.
The script by Joe Aherne and John Hodge takes a relatively simple idea and projects it through the prism of the unconscious so that it unpacks through Simon’s life, personality and memory. It twists and turns weaving effortlessly through the different states of consciousness, keeping you on the edge of your seat.
McAvoy is a ridiculously charismatic presence. In the opening of the film there’s a trustworthy showmanship to the presentation of the ‘heist’ and we the audience get to follow his journey down the rabbit hole into the depths of who he is and why his memory has imprisoned the secret. His soul pours out of his eyes in another terrific, versatile performance.
Dawson delivers a calculating performance. She’s forced to be a soothing presence, muting her beauty and allure on the surface, and yet her physical perfection manifests itself in various degrees of reality and hypnotic projection. It’s a brave performance that requires navigating fierce assertive intelligence with vulnerability and questionable ethics.
Trance is a lucid cinematic dream that combines popcorn entertainment with artistic style and brains. It’s the gold standard for 2013 that all other films are going to have to live up to.
Trance will be released on 27th of March 2013