Review: Trance


Trance - Credit: PA

For all our Mike Leighs and Ken Loachs, Britain's greatest influence on cinema has been flash. Starting with the late 1970s wave of former advert makers (Ridley and Tony Scott, Alan Parker, etc.) a steady stream of chaps have shipped out to Hollywood on the backs of a few pop videos to add a bit of magic-hour glow to their cop and sci-fi flicks.

But one stayed home and, though it is heretical to suggest it right now, there is no greater exponent of style over substance than Danny Boyle.

Last year, Boyle became a national hero for his Olympic opening ceremony. Olympic glows fade fast but, while Jessica Ennis is busy whoring out her medal for any financial institution that pays, Boyle's picking up where he left off and his new thriller throws in just enough torture, gore and full frontal nudity to let everyone know he hasn't sold out or gone soft.

A remake of a little known 2001 film, Trance's opening sets us up for a heist piece. James McAvoy is an auctioneer narrating the security procedures used when they are auctioning a multi-million pound work of art. Quickly, though, we are in a very different film: McAvoy has amnesia and, on the vigorous promptings of a gang of hard-core villains, is consulting a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) to try to remember the location of something very valuable. From there, we are in a frantic game of who's playing who, with revelations tumbling out one after another and you are wondering which bits are real and which are illusions being played out in McAvoy's mind while it is under hypnosis.


At one point a gang member exclaims, 'This is nonsense,' and I was inclined to agree. The plot is a fine old piece of hokum and to enjoy it you need to give into it and accept the silliness. Many people will do just that and be thrilled by it. But, for me, Boyle's frantic sensory overload of restless visuals and cranked up, pulsating soundtrack is too much for the material to support and communicates a lack of faith in the material.

It's not style over substance as much as style in opposition to substance. His previous film, 127 Hours, should have been an exercise in stark, isolation and existential terror, but Boyle made it so loud and vibrant James Franco looked like he was having a fine old time stuck down there in his crevice.

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It's also a touch desperate: like a middle aged man desperately trying to prove he's still down with the kids. Trance resembles Inception set in a Hoxton nightclub.


Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani, Wahab Sheikh and Tuppence Middleton

Length: 101 mins