Director Danny Boyle’s film Trance begins with a man’s voice speaking to the audience: “No piece of art is worth a human life.” He repeats that a couple of times, making it seem like prophetic advice.
Simon Newton (James McAvoy) is at Delancy, his London auction house, selling Francisco Goya’s painting “Witches in the Air”for £27.5 million. That’s when the robbers strike. As smoke floods Delancy’s auditorium, Simon grabs the painting from its easel onstage and seems to secure it in a black bag, carrying it to a safety chute. That’s when the crime boss, Franck (Vincent Cassel), hits Simon on the head, and steals the bag.
But the painting isn’t in the bag. Not finding the painting, Franck and his goons ransack Simon’s apartment. When they confront him,Simon says he can’t remember where it is. Franck orders him to go under hypnotherapy to remember, which is when Simon meets hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), who promises to help him.
Boyle, known for directing Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, creates another psychological masterpiece in Trance. His direction, along with Joe Ahearne and John Hodge’s script, leads audiences through mesmerizing twists and turns.
As Simon undergoes Elizabeth’s hypnosis, it’s hard to keep track of what are dream sequences and what’s reality. The hypnosis sequences are surreal, but the script itself carries an edge of lunacy, making the crazy believable. For example, in one scene, Simon tears white packaging paper into shreds, hoping to find his memory of that night, and as he does so, the tips of his fingers bleed. In the presumably real-life sequence that it’s based on, Franck and his cronies stand over Simon, prying off his fingernails with a knife.
Trance is as hypnotic as its namesake. Trying to unravel the mystery of the missing painting, you submerge into the plot, until pretty soon, it’s hard to see beneath the murky waters.
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