Renowned for movie darlings like “Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” director Danny Boyle has been described as one of the finest directors of his generation. It’s not difficult to see why once you’ve seen his latest film, “Trance,” though it may disappoint some.
To give a quick summary of the plot: fine art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) loses his memory during an art heist involving a priceless Goya painting. Since Simon is unable, even under significant physical duress, to recall where he hid the painting (FYI, it’s Goya’s “Witches in the Air”), criminal and fellow partner-in-crime Frank (Vincent Cassel) teams up with hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (gorgeously played by Rosario Dawson in what must be her strongest performance to date) to search for the lost artwork hidden deep within Simon’s innermost psyche.
The movie has received mixed responses from critics–which is not too surprising. In some ways the movie’s a brilliant thriller-noir–intelligent, stylish and dizzyingly precipitous, complete with skewed angle shots and Dawson’s femme fatale–whose tripper scenes recall some of the director’s signature cinematic moves in other Boyle classics. “Trance,” for instance, opens with a clever voice-over that instantly calls to mind Ewan McGregor’s version in “Trainspotting.” And like with “Trainspotting,” there are compelling performances all around, especially from the lead, James McAvoy, who is at times appropriately and terrifyingly unnerving.
But other moviegoers are hesitant. It’s like “Inception” all over again: the movie might be stylish, fun and imaginative, but you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it, and the reasons will differ. As Christopher Orr of The Atlantic writes in his review, “It’s just that kind of film, one that will inevitably divide audiences along fault lines that are hard to predict.”
Well, you’ll just have to go and find out, won’t you?
(But be prepared: there’s lots of nudity and violence. The shocking kind.)