Trance, the latest film from Danny Boyle, is an enjoyable mess. The film makes little sense, the characters are rarely consistent, and tonally, Trance is all over the place. At the same time, it’s also a lot of fun.
Seeking to do for hypnosis what Inception did for dreams, Trance opens with Simon (an excellent James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer who has gotten into trouble with online gambling. Desperately needing money, Simon agrees to help the criminal Franck (Vincent Cassel) steal a painting. However, during the robbery, Simon attacks Franck. Franck responds by whacking Simon on the head.
As a result of the blow to his head, Simon ends up with amnesia and can’t remember anything that happened immediately after the robbery. Unfortunately for Franck, Simon was attempting to steal the painting for himself when he got hit on the head. As a result, neither Simon nor Franck have the painting and Simon can’t remember where he hid it. After unsuccessfully attempting to restore Simon’s memory through physical torture, Franck then decides that Simon should see a hypnotist.
Simon goes to see Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (a surprisingly effective Rosario Dawson). In several hallucinogenic and increasingly surreal scenes, we watch as Elizabeth leads the hypnotized Simon through the twists and turns of his own troubled subconscious. While Simon initially lies about why he’s undergoing hypnosis, Elizabeth quickly reveals that she knows what’s going on. However, to Franck’s surprise, Elizabeth agrees to continue to treat Simon and help him remember the location of the painting. Soon, both Simon and Franck find themselves falling in love with Elizabeth, little suspecting that Elizabeth has an agenda of her own…
Judging from some of the reviews and other online comments that I’ve come across, I may be in a minority but I actually really enjoyed Trance. Seriously, how can you not enjoy a film that’s so unapologetically over-the-top? I loved the film for its lush cinematography. I loved the fact that everyone’s apartment appeared to decorated exclusively with neon. I loved the fact that all three of the main characters came across like they were continually on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. In the end, I even loved the fact that Boyle didn’t even attempt to make the film realistic. Trance is a celebration of pure style, a collection of barely connected set pieces that come together to make Trance into a pure cinematic experience.
Danny Boyle is one of those directors that people tend to either love or hate. If you don’t like Danny Boyle, you probably won’t enjoy Trance. However, if you’re like me and you’re an unapologetic fan, you’ll appreciate Trance for what it is, a pure triumph of style over substance. Like many other Boyle films, the visuals are so strong, the music is so propulsive, and camerawork is so kinetic that you can forgive the fact that the film’s plot doesn’t make much sense. Boyle may be a messy filmmaker but it’s often a beautiful mess.