Directed by Danny Boyle.
Starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani, Wahab Sheik and Tuppence Middleton. 101 mins.
For all our Mike Leighs and Ken Loachs, Britain’s greatest influence on cinema has been flash. Since with the late seventies, starting with the former advert maker like Alan Parker and Ridley and Tony Scott, a steady stream of chaps have shipped out to Hollywood on the backs of a few pop videos they made 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 was a national hero for his Olympic opening ceremony. Olympic glows fade fast but while Jessica Ennis and any other athlete with face enough to do it, are busy whoring out her medal for anyone who'll pay, 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 prepares us up for a heist piece. McAvoy is an auctioneer narrating the security procedures used when they are auctioning a multi-million pound work of art. Quickly though we are whisked away into a very different film: McAvoy has amnesia and, on the vigorous promptings of a gang of hard-core villains, is consulting a hypnotist (Dawson) to try and 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 the audience encouraged to wonder 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 - the restless visuals and cranked up, pulsating soundtrack - is too much for the material to support and communicate 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’ve 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. It’s also a touch desperate: like a middle aged man desperately trying to prove he’s still down with the kids. Trance is Inception remade in a Hoxton nightclub.