According to Hollywood a bonk on the head can empty a mind of all its memories. Experts say amnesia doesn’t work that way, but nonetheless it’s an age-old movie device. But then Hollywood would also have you believe that robots from outer space will one day take over the world and Russell Crowe can sing French show tunes.
That sense of disbelief will be crucial to your enjoyment of the new Danny Boyle film “Trance.” A big buy-in is required to accept the far-fetched plot devices to this intriguing, but intrigue-heavy movie.
After an elaborate art heist goes awry a valuable Goya painting ends up missing. Not in the hands of the thieves, or the police. The only person who knows where it is Simon (James McAvoy) but a head injury wiped his memory. To recover his memories—and the painting—criminal mastermind Franck (Vincent Cassel) hires Dr. Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to hypnotize Simon and unlock his memories. Lines between reality and memory becomes blurred, however, as Dr. Lamb probes deeper into Simon’s unconscious mind.
“Trainspotting” director Boyle presents the hypno sessions in an interesting way—as though the viewer is in the nether world between reality and the recreation of Simon’s memories. It’s disorienting filmmaking that disguises what’s real and what isn’t, which is important for a thriller with this may twists and turns. Occasionally, however, it feels as though there are too many bends in the story.
I won’t elaborate—no spoilers here—but the old saying, “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” applies here. This is Boyle pushing the boundaries of the genre and audience acceptance to the edge.
For instance if you can buy in that Cassel and his gang are the most patient violent thugs ever or that femme fatale Dawson is Reveen the Impossibilist on steroids, then “Trance” will provide some thrills. If not, why not pull out that VHS of “Trainspotting”?