(*Note: This review does not contain spoilers. I get very frustrated when people tell me the ending before I see the film!)
Despite the blood, guns, and dead bodies in Danny Boyle’s Trance, you can’t help but get pulled further and further into the film as it kaleidoscopically delves into subplot after subplot. James McAvoy narrates the opening sequence with a smug look on his face, those famous blue eyes gleaming with deceit. His involvement in the plot to steal a £27 million painting soon goes awry, and his business partners (including the suavely menacing Vincent Cassel) direct him to a hypnotherapist in the hopes that she can to help him recover the memory of the lost painting.
Many, if not all, of Danny Boyle’s films take on a frame tale character. Slumdog Millionaire, perhaps Boyle’s best-known movie, creatively relates the tale of Jamal Malik through an Americanized game show. Question by question, the audience slowly pieces together the narrative of his life. So, too, is Trainspotting filled with simultaneous and contradicting plot developments as a group of heroin addicts (alternately deplorable and hilarity-ensuing) attempt to navigate 1980s Edinburgh. Even 28 Days Later is filled with confusing camera angles and ambiguous characterizations.
Trance, though, perhaps represents the director’s ultimate wish to create as mysterious a film as possible. Even the use of color in the film is magnificent–watch for hints of orange, red, and blue throughout. The three main characters play beautifully against each other in what is essentially a game of Russian roulette. And all under hypnosis, of course. Half dream-sequence, have revenge plot, Trance is the slightly better orchestrated version of Side Effects, a film released mere weeks ago by Steven Soderbergh. (Aside: Groups of similar films seem to be released around the same time–do studios purposefully record and release similar versions to see which one fares better? In this case I wish Side Effects and Trance had been released further apart, since each is meritorious enough to stand on its own).
I found myself as mesmerized as McAvoy himself, desperate to sort out the motivations of the hypnotist and the rest of the team. Like all great films, Trance is open to a multiplicity of interpretations about who really did what to whom. Satisfyingly fast-paced, yet unnervingly ambiguous, it is a film that confounds and mesmerizes from beginning to end. And Rosario Dawson’s seductively soothing voice will follow you even after you leave the theater wondering, perhaps, if you’ve been hypnotized yourself.
Overall grade: B-