Simon (James McAvoy) works in a top class London auction house, and they have very strict rules as to what the staff should do if a robbery is attempted. Way back when, if an auction was robbed there was not a lot the company could do to prevent a bunch of hardmen barging in and taking the valuables, but these days things are far more high security, so there are guards stationed outside, and training is supplied to cope with such an event, with the painting swiftly swiped off its stand and placed in a safe with a time lock so the chances of any criminal succeeding in their bid will be next to none...
Until now, as we see in the first ten minutes as there is a robbery staged by a gang of very well-prepared thieves, yet they still manage to allow the painting, a near-priceless Goya, to slip through their fingers. If Trance resembled anything here it would be a nineties heist movie where there were unexpected pitfalls for the characters to drop into, and for the audience to tumble in straight after them, although there was more than a hint of the playfulness of a sixties caper movie to it as well, at least until it touched on grimmer subjects such as torture and domestic abuse, the latter springing up to cast a new light on all we had seen so far.
This was an odd inclusion, and it could be that screenwriters Joe Ahearne and John Hodge would have been better finding a less serious method of resolving various plot issues, but then again there were plenty of viewers who felt they had pretty much failed in that anyway. This was thanks to a storyline which, there was no nice way of putting it, simply lost a great many of those people who were trying to follow it, and as a result turned a lot of them off as they gave up on something they didn't have a hope in hell of catching up. Much of that confusion could be placed at the door of director Danny Boyle, whose determinedly tricksy - some would say dementedly tricksy - stylings were much of the reason.
But was Trance as confusing as all that, or had these people not seen enough twisty-turny, double crossing, surprise reveal thrillers? Certainly the fact this took hypnotism as its subject, and the subsequent suppression of important memories, meant Boyle was able to stage show-off sequences of how Simon sees the world inside his head, what his impression of events were, and what was actually happening all intercut into a melange of plot points and misdirection. Some would have it they were all getting too clever for their own good, and there was a sense Boyle was overdoing it, daring the audience to keep up when the ending where all was revealed proved it to be fairly straightforward.
If you could call something that farfetched straightforward, but if you hadn't been left in the dust by the shenanigans, it was possible to have fun with this, purely by seeing how Boyle had an apparently labyrinthine suspense piece and took the bull by the horns to fashion what to all intents and purposes owed more to computer hacker thrillers than it did to the classic heist movies of the past. Except it wasn't a computer getting hacked, it was a mind as Simon has liberated the painting on its journey from the auction room to the safe, which leaves lead baddie Franck (Vincent Cassel, always good value in a crime flick) baffled and it's safe to say peeved that his prize has disappeared. That he knocked Simon out and gave him amnesia sounds like an old cliché, but that's nothing compared to what it really going on as Simon visits hypnotist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson in scenes it's obligatory to call "brave") and she begins to chip away at his psyche. Yes, it was ridiculous, but tonal missteps aside Trance was diverting for thriller fans tired of the same old approach. Music by Rick Smith.
[This film is available on blinkbox, a service providing hundreds of movies and television episodes without subscription, just a one off payment to either rent or buy your choice. You can watch blinkbox on your SmartTV, Xbox 360, iPad, Blu-rays, Set-top boxes, PC or Mac or TV connected to your PC or Mac. Click here for the details.]
British director, from TV, who started his movie career with two big homegrown hits: Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. His Hollywood efforts suggested he's better when based in the U.K., as both 2005's kids comedy Millions and the hit zombie shocker 28 Days Later were big improvements on his two previous features, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach.
Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later, then scripted Boyle's ambitious sci-fi epic Sunshine. Boyle next enjoyed worldwide and Oscar success with Slumdog Millionaire, the biggest hit of his career, which he followed with true life survival drama 127 Hours and tricksy thriller Trance, in between staging the 2012 London Olympics to great acclaim. Business biopic Steve Jobs was a flop, however.