If you look at Danny Boyle’s resume, you’ll see quite a diverse filmography. Since 1994, the director has done stories about heroin addicts (“Trainspotting”), zombies (“28 Days Later”), lucky kids (“Millions”), and real-life survivors (“127 Hours”). Considering how often directors end up making the same type of movie over and over again, Boyle’s ability to not be pigeonholed is commendable. Sadly, I can’t extend that same goodwill to “Trance,” his tenth feature film.
James McAvoy plays Simon, an art auctioneer who is secretly working with a group of criminals to steal a famed painting by Francisco Goya. While the robbery goes mostly to plan, a blow to Simon’s head leaves him with no idea of where he hid the prized painting. Slowly losing patience with the situation, Vincent Cassel’s crime boss decides to hire a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to help Simon regain his missing hours. But the more Simon attempts to remember the past, the messier the present becomes.
It’s hard for me to recommend “Trance,” but not because it’s poorly made. Boyle is a talented director, the actors aren’t bad in their roles, everything on a techincal level is professionally done. So what’s the problem? It’s the tone of the movie. Or should I say tones.
It feels as if there are two different movies Boyle is making here. One is a sly mystery about a missing piece of art. The other is a dark tale on how obsessions can end up destroying lives. Unfortunately, instead of picking one of these stories, Boyle and writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge decide to double down and try to do both, and the results aren’t good.
Why? Let me try to give an example of how schizophrenic “Trance” can be. In the final act of the movie, there is an attempted rape, bloody shootouts, one very nasty secret in the trunk of a car, and someone almost burnt alive. Yet after all this dark stuff has transpired, there is this coy, flirty scene involving two of the main characters in the last five minutes of the movie. Talk about a change in moods.
And this isn’t just isolated to the climax. “Trance” is just constantly jumping back and forth from being light and romantic to dark and bleak. It’s almost like “The Thomas Crown Affair” and “Memento” had a kid, and “Trance” is the unbalanced offspring of that relationship. While Danny Boyle has certainly made some real classics over the years, I doubt that “Trance” will be remembered in the long run.