English filmmaker Danny Boyle hit it big in recent years with widely acclaimed and not-quite-mainstream movies like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. But he began his big-screen career with two films — Shallow Grave and Trainspotting — that instantly revealed a true signature style: crisp pacing, lush visuals, witty dialogue and a knack for infusing noir-ish crime thrillers with a punk rocker’s anarchic sense of fun. Trance is Boyle’s eleventh feature but it would have served perfectly as his third.
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Trance’s dazzling 10-minute intro sequence provides a prime example of Boyle’s style. Successful London auctioneer Simon (Danny McAvoy) wryly narrates propulsive scenes detailing the security required for the multi-million dollar paintings he puts on public display. We know what’s coming, but it’s a pleasure when it arrives. The meticulously crafted heist unfolds and Simon eventually wakes up in the hospital. The painting (Goya’s 1798 “Witches in the Air”) is nowhere to be found — by good guys or bad, though it soon gets hard to tell the difference. Was it an inside job? And why can’t Simon remember what happened?
Simon soon finds his way to hypnotist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) at the behest of gangster Franck (Vincent Cassel) and the movie gradually goes completely nuts, blurring all the lines between dreams, visions, perceptions and reality. No one is who he (or she) seems to be, and anything you think you know about characters and events is subject to change at any moment. Boyle eventually piles on a few too many surprises, and where the film ends up isn’t really as interesting as where it began — especially given the insanely wild ride it takes to get there. But Trance’s eventual cult-movie status seems assured. Fans will pore over every detail in multiple viewings to make sure it all adds up. Trance may be overwrought, but boring it’s not.
Trance starts today at the Canal Place and Elmwood theaters.