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. Rating: NNN
The recently respectable Danny Boyle reaches back to the messier storytelling of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting in this stylish, twisty caper picture in which an art dealer (James McAvoy), having successfully helped steal an invaluable Goya painting, submits to a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) after a head injury leaves him unable to remember where he hid the prize.
It's Boyle's version of Inception, played at high speed and filtered through the formally slippery aesthetic of Nicolas Roeg, one of Boyle's directorial idols. For all the plot's convolutions, it's pretty simple to follow as the unpacking of our hero's psyche reveals origami-like levels of complexity - and suggests that we might not be rooting for the right characters.
But as its plot gains momentum, Trance sacrifices emotional clarity, fracturing its initial focus on McAvoy's protagonist into an elaborate triangle involving Dawson's confident therapist and Vincent Cassel's grim thief that tangles the movie's themes of identity and deception rather than enhancing them.
As a result, the final movement doesn't pay off quite the way it ought to.