Nobody can fault Danny Boyle’s ambition. He took Irvine Welsh’s beloved drug fuelled novel Trainspotting and created a cult classic, he put the true story of an adventurer stuck between a rock and a hard place on-screen brilliantly with 127 Hours and last year he orchestrated the Olympic opening ceremony showing what he can do away from the big screen. Now he is back in the director’s chair with ‘Trance’, a heist thriller starring James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson but where in the past his risks have paid off and then some, making him one of the most respected filmmakers of his generation, his latest effort falls short, disappointingly appearing more of a muddled mess than a marvel masterpiece.
The premise of the plot is fantastic on paper; an art auctioneer with a gambling addiction is complicit in the theft of Francisco Goya’s Witches in the Air, but when he is knocked out by gang leader Franck and can’t remember where he hid the painting, hypnotist Elizabeth Lamb is called upon to assist Simon in accessing his memory to retrieve the stolen artwork. The films begins well, with the opening sequence heist scene carried off effortlessly, generating excitement very early on. Artistically, this is a film to be admired, boasting bold, but stylish visuals and there are exhilarating moments throughout, improved by an uncomfortably mesmerising soundtrack, but this just isn’t enough. The complexity of the narrative becomes increasingly untidy, and the characters have little to no depth, becoming nothing more than pawns in an increasingly frustrating clutter. Obvious comparisons can be made with Christopher Nolan’s dreamy Inception but where putting that puzzle together was confusing, it was undoubtedly fun whereas Trance is a jigsaw that would make you want to flip the table before picking up all the pieces and putting them firmly back in the box.
James McAvoy shows promise in the lead role, but seems restricted, drowning in a series of sub plots that don’t really go anywhere. I did, however, enjoy the internal monologue segment, reminiscent of Ewan McGregor who provided the iconic ‘choose life’ speech in Boyle’s most impressive work. Vincent Cassel is weak as the villainous gang boss, and his team of goons are no better, none of them given their own identity. As a group of so-called ‘baddies’, I think there’s probably been Power Rangers’ foes’ that have been taken more seriously. With the male leads failing to cause much of a stir, it is left to Rosario Dawson to raise the bar, delivering the goods in a challenging role that develops at an uncontrollable pace, which she manages to maintain control of, holding it together to give a mature performance that steals the film, also earning some unexpected sex symbol status in suspenseful X-rated segments, handled expertly by Boyle’s stylistic direction.
‘Trance’ is not without its strong points, but with a back catalogue as glittering as Boyle’s, this will ultimately be seen as a letdown, not matching his past successes in any way shape or form. With the anticipation and intriguing foundations, it should have offered so much more though I feel we can let him off with one slip-up, as he has earned the right to be experimental. If nothing else, he has shown that his imagination is still as inventive as ever, which can only be a positive thing, even if the execution this time is way off the mark.
See the trailer: