Director Danny Boyle has been mesmerizing us with his genre-hoping movies since he burst out of the gate back in 1994 with Shallow Grave and since then – a few missteps aside – has given us some of the best cinema of the past 20 years. Trainspotting, Sunshine, 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire have seen Boyle master drama, sci-fi, horror and Bollywood, and for his latest flick he's entering the potentially tricksy world of psychological thrillers.
James McAvoy plays Simon, an art-auctioneer who gets caught up with a gang of thieves headed by Franck (Vincent Cassell), who plan to steal a painting worth £25 million. The robbery itself goes perfectly, but some messiness afterwards results with Simon getting a blow to head, as well as a bout of short-term amnesia. This turns out to be a problem for Franck, as Simon can't remember where he's stashed the painting, so he sends Simon to hypnotherapist Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to help him recall the location. But from here, things get even more complicated...
Playing around with memory and manipulation like a close-quarters version of Inception, Trance is not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. The revelations can probably be guessed by anyone paying attention quite early on, and any amount of hindsight will result in the plot being nit-picked into oblivion. Thankfully we have a cast and crew on stellar form, and as more and more is revealed about each character you will find your allegiances to each of them changing, which gives McAvoy, Dawson and Cassel a lot to do, and they are all very much up to the challenge. Meanwhile, Boyle is telling us the story in the most visually imaginative way possible. Mirrors, reflections and fractured glass are everywhere to remind us of the fragile perceptive nature of the story, while he shoots London with some gorgeous cinematography and a lush primary colour palette, all accompanied by an outstanding soundtrack.
The entire film possesses a sense of mania that won't allow you to pause and take note of its faults, instead whipping you up in its frenzy of mental gymnastics. Energetic, entertaining and hugely enjoyable, just don't take any of it too seriously.