out of Five
Running time: 101
Stylishly directed and featuring a pulsing soundtrack, this is an enjoyable brain-scrambler of a thriller with strong performances from all three leads, though the emotional impact is ultimately lost amidst all the twists and turns.
What's it all about?
Directed by Danny Boyle, Trance is adapted from Joe Ahearne’s 2001 TV movie and stars James McAvoy as Simon, a London art auctioneer with massive gambling debts who gets involved with a gang of criminals led by French thief Franck (Vincent Cassel) and plots the theft of a valuable painting. However, Simon double-crosses the gang and stashes the painting during the heist, only to get knocked on the head and find himself unable to recall its location when he wakes up.
When torture proves ineffective, Franck decides that maybe there are other ways of retrieving the memory, so Simon starts seeing hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) in the hopes that she can unlock the painting's location. However, Elizabeth quickly works out that Simon is involved in something shady and demands a cut of the action. But who's playing who?
McAvoy, Cassel and Dawson (who's now in a relationship with Boyle) are all excellent as the central trio, sparking all kinds of chemistry in various combinations. As a result, none of the other supporting characters (including Lee Nicholas Harris and Danny Sapani as the other gang members) get much of a look-in, though Tuppence Middleton makes a strong impression as a girl who keeps cropping up in Simon's recovered memory sequences.
Boyle's direction is extremely stylish throughout, heightened by Anthony Dod Mantle's terrific camerawork and a thumping soundtrack from Underworld's Rick Smith. In addition, Boyle maintains an appropriately dizzying pace and the impossibly twisty script keeps you guessing till the end.
As with most twisty thrillers, the fun mostly lies in trying to figure out what's going on ahead of the script, yet at the same time, wanting to be joyously blind-sided by the eventual reveal. The problem here is that we're never quite sure if we can believe what we're seeing, so it's hard to invest in the characters. On top of that, Boyle plays several interesting games with the audience's sympathies for the three main characters, but that ultimately backfires because the emotional impact of the basic story gets lost amidst the continually multiplying twists.
There are also a number of smaller niggles, such as a particularly gratuitous and unnecessary sexual detail (laughably worked into the plot) and a frustrating voiceover that disappears early on.
Stylish, sexy and superbly acted, Trance is a lot of fun while it lasts but it doesn't quite deliver the expected rewards of the twisty thriller genre and, as such, is unlikely to stand up to a second viewing. Worth seeing, all the same.