Some films are complex because their psychological content demands it. Some films are complicated because the mind that created them likes obfuscation and confusion. Whilst not being in the same league as Christopher Nolan’s virtually impenetrable film Inception, this film goes a fair way to scrambling its audience’s brains before, having proved how clever and complex it has been, it explains everything. The trouble is there is such a level of complexity in the final explanation that it might be possible to walk away still not entirely sure what was truth and what was fiction. Or indeed whether you care that much.
Danny Boyle is a great showman. From the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games to Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, his very individual artistry is plain for all to see. It is evident in Trance. The film, shot by Anthony Dod Mantle looks terrific. Trademark camera angles, great panoramic crane shots and intense detailed close up work all make for a beautifully shot and highly muscular piece of film. Its violent scenes and its sex scenes are explicit. Whilst Boyle takes no prisoners he doesn’t over-indulge, leaving the impression that he could have gone much further. A great soundtrack keeps the audience pumped up and ready for the next stimulus offered by the narrative, the sensational or the beautiful. There is also an attractive laconic humour running through the yarn.
Performances are uniformly strong, though occasionally overcooked, with James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel all give good accounts of themselves. McAvoy’s art-dealer Simon is caught up with the wrong type of people having fallen foul of gambling debts. It is a persuasive study in youthful innocence, cockiness, lust, aggression and terror. An underworld adolescent who learns just how dangerous and lacking in morality such a world can be. Dawson’s Elisabeth as Harley Street hypnotherapist is all poise and self-control even when the stakes are high and the danger palpable. Cassel exudes menace as Franck at the head of an art-stealing gang of social misfits and malcontents who have no qualms about stripping the nails of another human being. The omnipresent menace and ugliness of those malcontents is contrasted by a brief but attractive appearance of Tuppence Middleton.
From its Goya masterpiece heist at the start of proceedings through to a dynamic denouement of truly film-noir proportions being pushed into the water of a dark London dock, the film bears all the hallmarks of a good old fashioned thriller. The introduction of Dawson’s hypnotherapist opens the door for Boyle and writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge to introduce amnesia, auto-suggestion and general psychological manipulation to muddy the waters.
The team has fashioned a compellingly told story that mischievously teases the audience with false revelation following false revelation. Double crosses fall like skins off an onion and reality is further obscured the deeper into the film one gets. It’s all great knockabout stuff and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. As such it’s a fun evening in the cinema but don’t look for anything more profound than that.