You’ve heard of thrillers that are “full of twists” and “keep you guessing right until the end”? “Trance” is one such film, one that twists itself into complete meaninglessness. Director Danny Boyle is clearly trying to make his “Inception,” but instead he’s made his “Vanilla Sky.” It’s a lackluster thriller that steals just about all of its ideas from either “Inception” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
The biggest problem with “Trance” is that there are no stakes and it all means nothing. Hard as “Inception” was to follow at times, the rules were always clear about which level of reality the story was functioning in at any given time. Not so here; Boyle and writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge pull the wool over the viewers’ eyes repeatedly, and while it’s supposed to be clever, it’s really just insulting.
The film’s opening 15 minutes hints at a much, much more interesting movie than the one it actually leads to. James McAvoy, in a performance that screams “poor man’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt,” stars as a security specialist at a high-end art auction house in London, who details the house’s security procedures. This leads into a pretty thrilling heist sequence, in which a gang led by Vincent Cassel tries to steal a valuable painting, which soon goes missing.
The rest of “Trance” concerns the world’s sexiest and least ethical hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) and the various permutations and double crosses of the relationships among Dawson, McAvoy and Cassel, which concern love, money, and that stolen painting. About every ten minutes there’s an earth-shattering plot twist, and about half of those twists concern whether or not the scene we just watched was a hypnotic allusion.
“Trance” tries to dramatize characters physically extracting or placing information in someone’s brain- again, an idea already explored to much greater effect in both ‘Eternal Sunshine’ and “Inception.” Not to mention, “Trance” is one of those movies in which the visuals on the poster are much cooler than anything that happens on screen.
On top of being art-directed to within an inch of its life, and plagued throughout by an oppressively loud score by Rick Smith, the film just doesn’t hold together, because it’s hard to care about any of these people or anything that happens to them. I didn’t care about any of the characters, the painting, the heist, or anything else. It also doesn’t help that from the 30-minute mark forward, “Trance” is nothing but one false climax after another.
McAvoy and Cassel are both forgettable, but Dawson is better, getting to carry a movie in which hasn’t been given the opportunity to in years. Dawson also has a couple of full-frontal nude scenes, which I have a feeling are going to be the only thing anyone remembers about this movie.
Boyle’s had something of an uneven career. “Trainspotting” and “28 Days Later” are damn exciting, “Sunshine” very underrated, and “127 Hours” was a winner, even if Boyle was absolutely the wrong director for it. Then he won a bunch of Oscars for what I think was his worst film, “Slumdog Millionaire.” “Trance” is far from his best work, mostly because it’s structured so poorly.