If Danny Boyle wasn’t a British national treasure before 2012, he certainly was after spearheading the opening ceremony for the Olympics in London last year. Like most people in the UK who weren’t privy to what was going on behind the scenes, there was a feeling of impending doom beforehand. Was this Danny Boyle guy going to deliver the goods?
To be honest, it was probably just typical British negative thinking. We love to look on the dark side.
But any film fan worth his or her salt should’ve known better. Nine times out of ten, Boyle has a habit of delivering something that, if not always perfect, is at the very least interesting. So as it turned out, the opening ceremony was pretty amazing. It was so good, they offered a knighthood to Boyle (he refused it, saying,“it wasn’t my cup of tea.”).
Whilst directing operations on the Olympics gig, he was also knocking out a Frankenstein stage play, and putting together a dark little heist movie called Trance. Now that’s what I call multitasking. I can just about get a cup of tea ready at the same time I’ve finished making myself a sandwich, but beyond that my multitasking skills are rubbish.
Amnesia is... wait, I forget
Set in London, Trance is in some ways the flip side to all the upbeat patriotism of Boyle’s Olympic efforts. It’s also a different London to the one we often get these days, the kind with a red double-decker bus on every street corner, and Big Ben visible from every window. It’s not a particularly touristy film.
This is because Trance deals with crime. High stakes crime. James McAvoy plays a guy working security detail at a London auction house. Should one of the famous works of art being auctioned come under threat of being stolen, McAvoy and his team quickly put into place a well-practiced routine of removing the artwork out of harms way.
However, very early in the film, it turns out McAvoy is an inside man, there to ease the heist of a rare painting by Vincent Cassel, the villain in charge of the robbery. During the theft, McAvoy takes a blow to head. When Cassel discovers the painting is in fact missing, it seems he’s been double crossed by McAvoy. But he claims innocence, amnesia and no knowledge of the painting’s whereabouts.
They both call upon a hypnotherapist, Rosario Dawson, to try to unlock the artwork’s location in McAvoy’s mind. If only things were that simple, eh? Needless to say, they aren’t.
From here, Boyle pulls out every directing trick in the book. It’s a very flashy film, portraying a London that feels mysterious, and dream like. He tilts the camera a lot. Sometimes, when directors do this, it reminds me of the BatmanTV show from the nineteen-sixties. I’m sure that’s probably not their intention.
As Rosario digs deeper into McAvoy’s subconscious, the pace really picks up. By the end of the film, your head will probably be spinning from information overload. The payoff is a good one, and undeniably exciting, but the path to that point can sometimes be convoluted. I always find it a bit irritating when a character has to dump ten minutes of plot exposition in your lap before the story can progress (usually because the writers have been too clever for their own good), and that happens in Trance.
Trance is one of those films that are great while you’re watching them, a real treat for the eyeballs and sometimes, for the mind. But a few hours later, after it’s ended, and you’ve got some distance, it strikes you as bit of an empty experience.