TRANCE directed by Danny Boyle, written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge, with James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel and Tuppence Middleton. A Fox Searchlight release. 101 minutes. Opens Friday (April 12). For venues and times, see listings.
Having produced the epic opening ceremonies for last year's London Olympics, surely Danny Boyle deserves a rest. Instead, the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire director is pimping his new movie, the surrealistic heist thriller Trance.
It's always great to talk to him, but I have to ask: shouldn't he be recuperating in a hyperbaric chamber?
"It's wonderful to keep working," Boyle says. "You do big things - like, the Olympics was a big thing - and everybody expects you to take six months off or something. I couldn't bear that."
In fact, most of the work on Trance was completed before the Olympics; the film was shot during the run-up to the Games to give Boyle something to do.
"We had six very creative months dreaming [the Olympics] up, and then it was, like, two years of meetings," he says. "Procedural, procurement, double-checking everything - all that kind of stuff. And it drives you mad, because it slows everything down. You're just in a miasma of committees. So we managed to get a sabbatical where we would work on the Olympics Thursday and Friday, and then Saturday to Tuesday we'd go off and shoot Trance."
Boyle says the project - which stars James McAvoy as an art auctioneer caught up in a web of betrayal and murder over a stolen Goya painting - was exactly what he needed.
"Because it's a dark, twisted film, we had [such] delight telling it," he says. "It was in such contrast to the other job that was ongoing, where you can only be positive and optimistic and family-friendly. It refreshed both projects, slipping backward and forward from one to the other."
In Trance, McAvoy's character - suffering amnesia from a head injury sustained during the robbery of the aforementioned painting - turns to an American hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to find key information lost in his brain. The device allows Boyle to plunge the audience into stylized imagery along with his characters.
"To have a film that's a series of deeper and deeper trances as you get into it is lovely," he says. "I kinda want all [my] films to be hypnotic like Trance is. I always used to say that, long before I ever took on this project; I'd always used that vocabulary. You want them to mesmerize."
Boyle's also happy to have the chance, after Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, to make a film that's a little more playful.
"It's not like a traditional redemption film, where you're gonna go through a crisis with your hero and then emerge [and] you'll all feel triumphant," he says. "It actually challenges that. You genuflect at the genre for a moment and then you're off twisting it, distorting it. I love doing that."