It’s been nearly 20 years since Britain’s Danny Boyle burst onto the directorial scene with Shallow Grave, his screen debut. Since then, he’s given audiences jaw-dropping social realism, (Trainspotting) superb science fiction, (28 Days Later) a morality play disguised as children’s fare, (Millions) a grimly realistic tale of survival, (127 Hours) and Slumdog Millionaire which made him rich and led to his selection as the maestro behind the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics. Given that heady resume, what’s the man likely to do for an encore? How about a visually orgiastic thriller involving psychological manipulation, armed robbery, sexual assault, and multiple murders resulting from the theft of a masterpiece by Goya?
James McAvoy, (Wanted, The Last King of Scotland) plays Simon, an art auctioneer who may (or may not) be the inside man responsible for the theft of a $40 million dollar Goya taken by a gang of 4 thugs headed by Franck, (Vincent Cassel -Black Swan, Ocean’s Thirteen) who may (or may not) be in cahoots with Elizabeth, (Rosario Dawson) a hypnotist who may, (or may not) be playing all these macho types off against one another. Manipulation, mutilation, no small amount of sadistic behavior and a brief but unsettling display of full-frontal female anatomy swirl around this sextet as they double cross and crisscross each other until only a single pair remains…along with Boyle’s open-ended suggestion the survivors may just square off for one final confrontation.
Boyle’s ability to work with a complex story line that combines visual flair with visceral performances is on full display here; despite the twists and turns in screenwriter John Hodge’s plot, the audience never loses its place in the serpentine intricacies of a complex series of alliances among the characters that take on fresh meaning as one betrayal begets another and yet another. Trance’s hallucinatory color pallet, fractured cinematography and compulsive pacing combine to keep the action brisk, exciting and increasingly ominous all the way to its elliptical, if not entirely satisfactory ending…</p>
But to what purpose? Is it possible Boyle just wanted a vehicle that could demonstrate his multiple talents? How else to explain this exercise in slick but rather vicious voyeurism? Surely he doesn’t need the money nor further recognition of his talent…
The Verdict? A visually impressive but soulless exercise in lurid melodrama.
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