British director Danny Boyle’s latest creation is a mind-blowing heist movie in the world of hypnotherapy. Our story concerns a selling agent of fine-art named Simon (James McAvoy) who works at a prestigious auction house just like Sotheby’s but not Sotheby’s. Some thieves led by crime boss Franck (Vincent Cassel) attempt to steal Francisco Goya’s Witches in the Air after being sold for $27 million. Simon, who is actually in cahoots with the criminals, attempts to double cross his cohorts and hide the artwork for himself. But he suffers a blow to the skull in the ensuing fracas. Now he can’t remember what he did with the painting due to his amnesia. Needless to say, Franck is more than a little displeased and forces Simon to visit a hypnotherapist in an effort to jog his memory.
The importance of memory has been a common theme in Boyle’s films. Trance is the latest example. As Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) probes deeper into Simon’s subconscious, the developing story takes on a depth that becomes more twisty than was initially apparent. The pacing is brisk and the personalities are fascinating. The mood is particularly exhilarating. The style exhibits the joy of a filmmaker that is relaxed. His fun is infectious and I was ready to be taken on an exciting trip. Once again Boyle taps longtime collaborator Rick Smith of the band Underworld for the pulsating score. The music throbs with a life that energizes the plot. All of this lays the groundwork for a head-scratching finale.
Trance is a well acted thriller. The narrative is surprisingly straightforward for the majority of the drama. It’s not hard to follow. So that makes the developments of the final third a bit troubling. A chaotic eleventh hour action sequence flips everything completely on its head. You‘ll question what you’ve just witnessed. It plays fast and loose with the motivations of the characters. Assumptions are dashed. It tinkers with the conventions of hero and villain. If you’re content to rest in the hands of an auteur and allow yourself to go where he takes you, you should enjoy this film. As a self avowed fan, I was willing to put my faith in the director’s vision. You’ll end up debating the specifics though. Was a particular event real, a dream, a recollection or a suggestion? And who did what and to whom? To be honest, I’m still not sure how to interpret what happened, but for some reason I didn’t care that my expectations were destroyed. I think the journey was sufficiently entertaining that I didn’t mind the misdirection. In fact I kind of enjoyed it.