The idea of national treasure Danny Boyle and seminal screenwriter John Hodge working on a heist film is an enticing one. Throw in some mind bending hypnotism and it sounds like a match made in heaven.

And with a cast that features talent such as James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel, you’d be fairly confident that the finished product would be the best thing since sliced bread.

Instead what we’re treated to here is a film that tries so desperately to be clever, it comes off as a convoluted mess. Which is a shame really, as with a bit of a trim in the running time there may be a good film in there somewhere.

James McAvoy plays the fine art auctioneer Simon, who sets up a robbery with Franck (Vincent Cassel) and becomes in embroiled in a heist during which he receives a blow to the head. Forgetting where he has placed the painting, Franck makes Simon see hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) in a bid to discover where it is.

As the plot progresses, the films narrative darts all over the place and at times you’re not sure whether the proceedings are taking place during hypnotism, in a dream or actually happening. Its most likely all intentional on the filmmakers part, but at times it can just come off as distracting. Needless to say, many other films have employed this trick and many of them have had much more successful results.

Despite it’s best efforts, a lot of the film becomes a bit predictable in places especially towards the end and it all reeks strongly of an effort to be incredibly clever but ultimately leaves you scratching your head, questioning whether all this is actually possible and more importantly, worth while.

Characters are underdeveloped or make decisions that seem completely bewildering and for the most part, with the camera focusing on some unflinching details, you realise that they are pretty unlikable too – which in turn makes it pretty hard to root for anyone.

On the plus side, Trance does look great. It has a nice palette of colours complimented with some subtle cinematography which is to be expected by Danny Boyle. With reflections and out of focus shots in abundance, it’s clear that cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle was having a lot of fun here.

The soundtrack is also worth a nod, with Underworld’s Rick Smith (a regular contributor to Danny Boyles films) providing the original music, complemented with tracks from the likes of UNKLE and Moby.

It’s an odd and quite often indulgent film, especially coming from the usually restrained Danny Boyle. The dark subject matter is to be expected, but when compared to his other work – Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine – Trance just doesn’t hold up unfortunately.

Perhaps Danny Boyle and co were just letting their hair down after working so hard on the other project they had going on in 2012, and who can blame them? But if the Olympic Opening Ceremony was the party, then Trance is very much the hangover.

Sluggish, confused and not quite sure of itself.

Deleted Scenes
The Power of Suggestion: Making Trance
Danny Boyle Retrospective
Short Film: Eugene by Spencer Susser
Theatrical Trailer


About The Author

Colin lives in south west London. Looks like a hobbit and has been watching films ever since he saw Return of the Jedi at the age of 3. You can follow Colin on Twitter @obicolkenobi.