Friday, April 5, 2013

JAMES MCAVOY: Movie Review: In Danny Boyle's Trance, McAvoy, Dawson and Twisted Memories Posted: 04/04/2013 6:28 pm CARYN JAMES (HUFF POST)

Playing a sophisticated London auctioneer, James McAvoy gazes into the camera with cool, nerveless clarity as his voiceover gives us the inside tricks of protecting and stealing a painting. This opening sequence of Danny Boyle's Trance is no more than exposition with a dash of red herring, and shouldn't work at all. Yet it does because McAvoy's voice is so captivating, already layered with deception and delusion, and because Boyle's visual creativity sweeps us along.

We zoom into the auction room; we're in a van with a gang of mercenaries hired by the auction house in case of trouble; a black and white flashback shows us the good old days when it was easy to steal a Rembrandt. Keep in mind how well McAvoy and Boyle save this opening; that will be extremely relevant to the ending of Trance, a film that looks like a heist movie wrapped in a memory puzzle, but is itself a kind of red herring.

For a good long time, it is also fun to watch, with Simon (McAvoy) in the middle of the action when robbers rush in to steal a Goya painting that has just sold for over 27 million pounds. As he has been trained to do, Simon grabs the painting to carry it to a safe place, but is thwacked on the head by the mastermind behind the crime, Franck (Vincent Cassel), and loses his memory of what he did with the Goya. Maybe a hypnotherapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), can help?

Very quickly, we're led to wonder who was really involved in the theft, then who's double or triple-crossing whom. This is Boyle from an excellent vintage: his first feature, the delicious dark comedy Shallow Grave (1994) plays the same game of whom do you trust? Is there any honor or truth among thieves? In Trance, we also wonder about the weird coincidences and lapses in Simon's recovered memories. At first, the looping, Rococo plot unfolds with such ease that we barely have time to realize there's a French robber and an American hypnotist in London, as if they were the U.N. of thugs and therapists.

Flitting back and forth between present-day scenes and memories, Boyle and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (their many films together include Slumdog Millionaire) create a sleek, almost photorealist London, with flashbacks and memories so sharp and bright it's deliberately hard to know what's real and what's not.


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