Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Joe Ahearne and John Hodge (screenplay)
Starring: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel and Danny Sapani
There is too much plot packed into too little time to really care what happens to anyone in Trance. Danny Boyle’s kinetic sense of motion goes nicely with the neon filtered beauty of the cinematography and the acting is uniformly decent, but the story is flawed simply by the way it is designed to try and outfox the viewer. Its largely backward moving narrative makes it play kind of like Memento, though the endless backpedaling and plot reveals are more nauseating than gasp-inducing.
Simon (James McAvoy) works at a high end art auctioning company in London when a big heist goes down, leaving him with a gun butt to the head and a nasty case of amnesia. We quickly learn that he is in on the plot, and that the Goya painting that he helped Franck (Vincent Cassel) and co. steal is still missing. After a brutal bit of fingernail pulling, Franck gets the brilliant idea to send Simon to a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) to try and pry out the whereabouts of that extremely valuable painting.
That mostly sets up Trance’s plot, though from there it is an endless spiral into incoherence. Joe Ahearne and John Hodge’s screenplay is aggressively sloppy, and Boyle attempts the impossible task of trying to gloss over that. During its frantic 100 minutes, the movie attempts to double- and triplecross viewers into narrative submission. The hypnotist has a romantic past with both of the main characters though one springs completely out of nowhere, and her relationship with Simon is overtly hinted at from the very beginning and then supposed to be a big reveal. Both exist as an excuse to patch up weak plot with nudity, which is what the movie also does with violence.
By jumbling the narrative’s structure and trying to tell the story both backward and forward, Trance becomes a jumbled assault of pretty images, graphic violence and wayward hallucinations that try to come together but don’t. It is designed to be one of those movies that you need to see twice to “get,” but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to see it again.