Multi-faceted and Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle's ("Trainspotting", "Slumdog Millionaire", "127 Hours") newest offering is an action-packed juggernaut with more twists and turns than one can, or should, expect. Written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge, with a fabulous soundtrack by Rick Smith, "Trance" is the kind of thriller I live for.
Simon (James McAvoy) is an auctioneer at a very chi chi establishment in London. During a mid-auction robbery of the famous Francisco Goya painting "Witches in the Air", he is knocked out, requiring surgery, and loses his memory. Hailed a hero, it turns out he has a major secret, one which the group of criminals he double-crossed, led by Franck (Vincent Cassel) and including murderous Nate (Danny Sapani), Dominic (Matt Cross) and Riz (Wahab Sheikh), would like to learn.
Unsuccessful with various attempts at memory retrieval, Simon turns to hypnotherapy for help. Much to the disdain of his captors, he meets with Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), a trained hypnotherapist, while they monitor every word from a van parked outside. As Simon travels in therapy back through the events the day of the robbery, the lines between what is real and what is hypnosis become increasingly blurred and even more dangerous.
McAvoy is thrilling, truly scared, and scary, at times. As the truth begins to unravel, we see a side of this sweet-faced actor we haven't seen before. And Dawson is much better than I anticipated, playing the smart, sophisticated therapist with more than a hint of street smarts.
But for me, the biggest plus of this film is the French-born Cassel. I am a huge fan, and for such a fine actor, he just doesn't get enough work in English-speaking films. He's especially sexy and cagy here as a man desperate to get what he thinks belongs to him, until a certain femme fatale catches his attention.
The action is incredibly fast-paced and alluring. We never quite know where we're going or what we're viewing, but through the lens of Anthony Dod Mantle, the director of photography, we learn a great deal. The dream sequences under hypnosis are particularly stunning, as are the wardrobes by costume designer Suttirat Larlarb. Boyle collaborates with these same professionals often, as many as six times for Mantle.
Hypnosis is a strange and exciting state, exactly like this movie. But beware of those post-hypnotic suggestions --- they can be a killer!
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle can add another jewel to his impressive repertoire of fine films. His latest effort, "Trance", co-written by his "Trainspotting" collaborator John Hodge, is a wild foray into the world of classic art. The often outlandish monetary value placed on certain works inspires nefarious people to get their greedy hands on them.
We first meet Simon (James McAvoy) as an auctioneer at a British auction house (think Sotheby's) who is going through a drill in preparation for possible thefts of the precious artwork they represent. At the first sign of trouble, Simon is trained to grab the priciest of the pieces in sight, whisk it away behind the scenes, place it in a protective cover, and thrust it into a slot in a wall, as if mailing a large letter. Of course, within minutes, a real heist is in the offing, organized by Franck (Vincent Cassel) accompanied by three henchman, and Simon must now react as he has been taught.
"Trance" is full of Hitchcock-like twists and turns, so at this point I am reluctant to reveal anything further about the plot. But ultimately Simon is forced to seek the help of a hypnotherapist to help him remember where he misplaced a set of keys --- well, not really, but that's what he tells the nice therapist, Elizabeth Lamb (played seductively by Rosario Dawson).
The film is fast-paced at times, and slows at more intimate moments. It is as violent as it is sexual, frequently cringe-inducing but always intriguing. It's the best role for the sultry Dawson that I have witnessed, and she carries the picture as much as anyone in the cast. Cassel is a fine actor that audiences will remember from "Black Swan", while McAvoy, simply superb as Simon, was a standout in "The Last King of Scotland". "Trance" is deliciously psychological, constantly blurring the line between fantasy and reality. And why not? After all, we're talking about hypnosis here.
According to the script, five per cent of people are "highly suggestible and can reach the deepest, most vulnerable states of trance". As if to prove that point, Boyle has most of his main characters under hypnosis at one time or another. "Trance" won't leave you hypnotized, but you may sense a slight dizziness figuring out what happens from one moment to the next.
Opinion: See It Now!