That Danny Boyle directed a film in the midst of preparations for last year’s mammoth Olympic opening ceremony is impressive enough. That it’s his sleekest outing yet is at least as mind-boggling as the film in question, Trance, imagines itself to be. It’s a circuitous, psycho-sexy heist thriller, the engagingly silly plot mechanics of which are tricky to describe without giving the game away.
This much you can know: sharp-suited London auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) is the inside man for art thief Franck (Vincent Cassel). When his planned double-cross during the theft of a prized Goya goes awry, Simon loses all memory of where he’s hidden the painting. Enter alluring hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), who may or may not know more than she’s letting on.
Adapted from Joe Ahearne’s 2001 TV film, it’s essentially ‘Eternal Inception of the Spellbound Mind’, though its shallow mind games are strictly disconnected from the heart. Like a jigsaw puzzle of a priceless painting, the fun lies in putting it together, and not in contemplating the fractured final product.
Still, after Slumdog Millionaire and the stifling 127 Hours, it’s a kick to see Boyle back in lickety-split genre mode. Reunited with screenwriter John Hodge, and with a game, sideburned McAvoy as a Ewan McGregor proxy, this is the kind of film he might have made in the ’90s, only flashing all the technical elan he’s gained since then. Due respect to McAvoy, but it’s cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and his gorgeous, radioactive vision of our city that are the true stars here. It’s a different London celebration to the one Boyle directed last summer, but no less enticing.