FILM: Boyle follows his Oscar wins with Trance

tranceDANNY Boyle: genre hopping Oscar winner, eternally optimistic Mancunian, film student favourite and a post-Olympic national treasure, could have easily surfed the wave of national appreciation after the success of his Olympic opening ceremony but has instead chosen to do things his way, with what is without a doubt his most narratively complex film to date that while sometimes proves uneven is a perfectly enjoyable entry into the Boyle canon.

Giving a plot synopsis that does the sprawling narrative justice while not spoiling anything is almost impossible (Boyle has sent an open letter to film critics pleading them not to reveal it’s twists and turns) but on a basic level the film revolves around an art heist in which Simon (James Mcavoy) acts as the inside man but double crosses professional gangster Frank (Vincent Cassel) by hiding the stolen piece of art. Having also taken a blow to the head he develops amnesia and cannot remember where he has hidden the painting, causing Frank to seek the help of hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to try and extract the information. The first half of the film plays it by the book with the semi-successful heist and its aftermath being shown but there is a period after the midpoint in which it threatens to fall off the rails, seeming to lose itself in its own ideas. Characters and their actions become too ambiguous and it becomes a mesh of seemingly standalone scenes for a short while that culminates a bizarre sex scene between two of the main characters. This is where film will divide audiences; some may lose patience with the lack of cohesion whereas others will stick with it and will be rewarded come the (somewhat hysterical) climax, as all of the scrambled scenes are all tied up in a final twist that while hinted at throughout the film is nevertheless delivered like a hammer punch, and like any good twist causes you to replay the film in your head to make sure everything’s as it should be.

The film’s ace up its sleeve, however, is Boyle’s trademark stylistic touches, not since Trainspotting has he played around with audio and visual in such an exuberant manner. This aspect of the film is near flawless with Boyle seeming to keep the camera in perpetual motion which mirrors the film’s pace as once it gets going (almost from the off) it doesn’t hold back. The cast too do a largely fine job with Vincent Cassel adding yet another threatening yet strangely charismatic performance to his back catalogue but Rosario Dawson is the pick of the bunch with a controlled performance that must be alluring while always  keeping the audience on edge as she switches allegiances between Simon and Frank. While the performances are good it is the characters themselves that are the film’s main flaw as they are all, in short, kind of bastards. The lack of an out and out sympathetic character accompanied with the atmosphere that Boyle creates in which we are never sure who is going to double cross who next means the audience is left with nobody to root for.

Overall, Trance fits nicely into Boyle’s filmography, not reaching the heavy heights of 28 Days Later or the criminally underrated Sunshine but features some of his best visual work and while some members of the audience will have trouble connecting with some incomprehensible scenes and unlikable characters others will simply let the film wash over them, willing to be taken along for the ride that only a director like Boyle can take them on.