As a head wrecker, Christopher Nolan’s Inception ploughed the dream furrow to all new deepening levels of class and precision plotting.
Dreamlike yes, but Trance’s altered state is hypnosis and the similar premise of how much cranium confusion is possible, here to recall and supress memories works in much the same way as an implanted notion; Inception in reverse.
Danny Boyle’s own melon muddler has much in common with his British counterpart’s piece and perhaps many other mind-altered states movies, but this is every bit a Boyle film.
Showing flexibility with another deviating choice of film for the accomplished director, Boyle’s visceral style suits the mesmerising principle to allow the full experience; another tour of golden sound and vision that sees James McAvoy’s art auctioneer Simon, embroiled in a gangland plot to nick a painting. When a knock to the head erases all memory of the piece’s whereabouts, Rosario Dawson’s hypnotherapist joins the criminal gang led by Vincent Cassel to recall Simon’s memories to locate the artwork, with unravelling consequences.
A high concept mix of crime caper and mind bender then? But the fact is, aided by McAvoy’s fourth wall account of a brilliant opening heist set up and later exposition enlightening us, Trance isn’t as confusing as it would first appear; but it’s no less compelling or spellbinding, with a fair mix of adrenalized sequences and a sumptuously consuming palette that is trippy for the eye and the mind.
The head-trip is not so much the complexity of plot but what Boyle paints on screen, almost impressionistic, arguably this is one of Boyle’s most technically accomplished films in terms of creating a mesmerising feeling throughout with style, flair and substance combining more conservatively here than seen in the somewhat flamboyant passages of Slumdog and 127 hours.
The consistent styling is purposeful rather than indulgent via ever shifting points of view; impossible angles intentionally disorientate to create a feeling of erm, well… a trance! Gold and urban blues absorb and very few shots lose their lustre. And if the plot turns out to be unsurprising, the visual and euphoric musical mix keeps the head spinning. It all combines to create a genuine abstract world that often convinces more than other celluloid dreamscapes.
With London calling once more as the playground for all this chicanery after Boyle’s opening Olympian efforts in 2012, here Trance’s chosen style is held steadily to present another golden London encounter, presented as a star itself, with modern steel and glass fronts rubbing against the gritty old back streets, feeling like the capital crime capers of old within neo- London; though a rapturous and often playful tone works to dilute any serious intent to truly make it a chilling crime flick to rank aside the best but some abrupt violent episodes are certainly nail (pulling) biting.
McAvoy’s out of his depth amnesiac charms most memorably in that frenzied opening and with hypnosis as the key to the unlocking of his mind’s secrets much hinges on his central turn, so delivering frailty and increasing instability with the expected skill.
Cassel’s swivel from what could have been a brilliant crime lord to disempowered dupe ultimately weakens what is at first another exceptional menace from the Frenchman; in turn, vesting Dawson’s damaged leading lady to increasingly take centre stage as Simon unravels. In a macho film-crime world, it’s satisfying to see Dawson edge all of her male counterparts to the premier medal winning performance.
If you take your eye away from the candy on screen for a moment and see through Boyle’s splendid fine brush finish, Trance is a little predictable but a thumping soundtrack, solid performances and another lavish exhibition of a modernised celluloid London do much to create a dreamlike world crafted with sumptuous style, elevating this genre fusion head-trip beyond the usual.