Oh Danny Boy, we know you are a national treasure after the success of the Olympic Opening Ceremony but I’m not sure your new film is going to be winning gold this year. Okay, so some of Boyle’s past films have involved some suspension of disbelief but excellent storylines and endearing characters can help an audience forgive even the unlikeliest scenarios; unfortunately Trance has a distinct lack of both of these.
Trance, directed by Danny Boyle and starring James McAvoy, is a crime thriller that tells the story of an art heist; Simon (McAvoy) receives a blow to the head which leaves him unable to remember where he hid the stolen painting. Desperate to find the painting and with a crime boss breathing down his neck, he seeks help from hypnotherapist Elizabeth (played by Rosario Dawson) who claims she can help him find it by taking him into a trance state.
The plot undergoes a number of twists and turns which make it hard to tell you much more about the storyline without giving too much away, but probably the most important thing to note is that your instinct about where the plot is going within the first half hour is probably right on the money. As a cinema audience we are quite jaded and as soon as something labels itself a thriller you are immediately looking out for potential twists – unfortunately this means that all too often you see them coming a mile off.
It will not necessarily ruin a film when the twists aren’t quite as clever as the writers thought they would be; I was able to really enjoy Shutter Island despite guessing early on what the dramatic twist would be. In this case the film was so well executed you could almost blame yourself for being just a smug viewer and seeking out clues. With Trance you get the sense that the writers are the smug ones, thinking they have been ever so clever that even avid film watchers would miss the huge hints that are scattered throughout the film until the (un)surprising conclusion.
Trance is not an awful film, the talented Boyle givens us a visually pleasing journey, taking us through trance state and reality and exploring the notion of how far hypnotherapy can and should go. However, despite being a fan of McAvoy I wasn’t convinced by his good boy gone bad character and Vincent Cassel does what he can with a fairly vague and unthreatening crime boss. How many crime bosses do you think would be sympathetic to amnesia and hold your hand through hypnotherapy?
You get the impression that Boyle was trying to take us on an exploration of the mind and leave us questioning what was real and who the real criminal of the film was, but like the scene that involves a full frontal and shaved Rosario Dawson, you wonder if Boyle should have perhaps left a little more to the audiences’ imagination.