Susan Granger’s review of “Trance” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Without doubt, Danny Boyle is one of the most exciting and versatile contemporary filmmakers. A consummate storyteller, he won an Oscar for directing “Slumdog Millionaire” and was previously nominated for “127 Hours.” Boyle’s other pictures include “Shallow Grave,” “Trainspotting,” “Millions,” “The Beach” and “28 Days Later” – and he orchestrated the opening ceremonies of last summer’s Olympics in London in which James Bond (Daniel Craig) famously escorted Queen Elizabeth II.
Now Boyle has focused on an ingenious art heist in London. It begins with Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer at Delancy’s, who details the elaborate precautions that galleries practice to protect their multi-million-dollar paintings. But just as “Witches in the Air” by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya is on the block, thieves brazenly storm the gallery. Grabbing the Goya masterpiece and dashing for safety, Simon is clobbered on the skull by Franck (Vincent Cassel), one of the thieves. Waking up, he’s lost all memory not only of what happened but also of where he put the painting. That’s frustrating to the thieves who have been torturing him to tell them. Exasperated, Franck decides to allow Simon to try hypnosis as a cure for his amnesia. That leads him to a hypnotherapist, Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), on the pretext that he’s lost his car keys. Realizing he’s not telling her the truth, she offers to help him recover his memory. Then things get really complicated. What is perception? What is reality? And how does the psyche know the difference?
Psychological thrills abound as the provocative plot twists, turns and flashes backwards, encompassing glimpses of entirely bare Ms. Dawson as a classic Renaissance nude. Working with screenwriter John Hodge (who adroitly adapted Joe Ahearne’s 2001 British TV movie) and stylish cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, Boyle propels the dazzling hyperactivity with an eerie score by Underworld’s Rick Smith.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1to 10, “Trance” is a trippy, intriguing, enigmatic 8, a surreal, cleverly ambiguous brain-teaser that will keep you thinking long after the lights go up.