Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

23 April 2013


Trance really is not that great.

But honestly that does not matter one bit.

Because the awesome thing about Trance is that it is so drunk on itself, so in love with its three hopelessly fascinating and attractive (and I mean that word in every sense possible) leads, so giddy with its own excesses and narrative folds, that it convinced me that it was excellent for almost every single minute of its running time.

The first twenty minutes of Trance are a heist movie – a complicated theft of a very expensive (£26,000,000) Goya. The perpetrators of the heist are James McAvoy (I love that guy) and the always-brilliant Vincent Cassel.

But, then, the painting is gone. And only James McAvoy knows where it is, except that he's forgotten and so what he needs to do is remember. Various tortures don't help McAvoy remember, so Cassel forces him to undergo hypnotherapy, which will tell us all where the painting is.

Not so fast. The hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson, looking as gorgeous as ever) gets herself involved in the problem. She figures out instantly that this guy is lying to her and she immediately proceeds to insinuate herself into the gang, demanding an equal share of the profits and wrapping everyone around her finger.

Things get complicated from here. He can't remember. She needs to hypnotize everyone in the gang. She starts to manipulate their minds. She's implanting post-hypnotic suggestions. She starts having an affair with one of them. And where the hell is this painting? Did he even steal the damn thing?

For me the movie goes off the rails around the 40-minute mark. But only if I spend any time thinking about it – which I did not do until the movie ended. Instead I just reveled in the intriguing shots set up by Boyle and by Anthony Dod Mantle (his usual DP). All of the usual Boyle touches are there: the beautiful colors, a slight horror-film sensibility, a constant flirtation with genre specificity, a love affair with his stars.

As I say, the whole thing is enjoyable from start to finish. It doesn't really end up making a lot of sense, but I mostly left the theatre grateful that Danny Boyle still makes films like this. The director of Slumdog Millionaire (as he is billed on the poster) has already won the Best Director Academy Award, and he could easily have stopped spending time on genre pictures in order to make higher-paying, more "important" studio pictures, but here he is making a movie about hypnosis and mind-control. For this I am grateful.

My advice: don't think about it too much and just go see it anyway.