Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, Trainspotting) is known for his masterfully versatile work, so going into any of his films you are guaranteed a unique experience. Trance, Boyle’s latest release, is no exception. Its charm lies in the stylistic way the plot is revealed. The film makes you question what reality truly is. It seeps into your mind, controlling the audience with its every twist and turn, and takes you on a psychologically thrilling journey. Though some of the plot twists are not as hard to predict as the film makes them out to be, the way that Boyle reveals these twists is exciting enough to leave you fulfilled.
Told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator, Trance deals with themes like reality, deep-rooted secrets, and memory. Without giving too much away, the film begins with Simon (James McAvoy of Wanted and X-Men First Class), a fine art auctioneer who agrees to help a group of criminals steal a valuable painting. In the middle of the heist, he is hit in the head and rendered unconscious – causing him amnesia that makes him forget where he hid the painting. After Franck (Vincent Cassel of Black Swan) and his gang’s torture doesn’t jog Simon’s memory, they force him to go see a hypnotherapist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson of Sin City, Seven Pounds and Rent.) It is once he sees this hypnotherapist that the film’s twists begin. Boyle blurs the line between reality and illusion, dreams and flashbacks, hero and villain. Elizabeth has control of Simon’s mind, just as Boyle has control of the audience’s. It is through searching Simon’s memory that dark, forgotten secrets are revealed.
The three lead performances are enticing and extremely well-acted. Though you may not root for any of their characters, the actors are giving well-rounded, transformative performances. They easily shift their characterization and disposition, leaving you questioning who, exactly, is in the right. While McAvoy and Cassel are great, the standout performance belongs to Rosario Dawson in a highly demanding role. Dawson easily slips between different personalities, depending on with whom her character is interacting. She is a commanding presence, which the role requires, and has you hanging on to her every word. This is one of my favorite performances from Dawson that I’ve seen.
Though Boyle never makes the same movie twice, this film easily has markings of the famed director. It is manipulative, thrilling, and full of flashbacks and tricks. It contains stunning shots that make up Boyle’s vision and that are beautiful to watch. It is greatly entertaining, though less surprising and brilliant than it makes itself out to be. Fans of Inception and the like will flock to this film – and will probably love it.