Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Seductive Spell

Trance       Final Cut Score: 87%

Don't dare accuse Danny Boyle of lacking diversity. During his distinguished 19-year directing career, the Oscar-winning Brit has delved into dirtbag drug addicts, flesh-eating freaks, sun-bound spaceships, one-armed rock climbers and slum-raised kids who kill it on game shows.

My Boyle best? Millions, a hauntingly beautiful tale of a theft gone awry, with two young boys – one seriously obsessed with saints – stumbling upon the stuffed-in-a-duffle-bag loot. If you've haven't yet seen the underappreciated gem, put it on your Netflix queue — stat.

Boyle is back in the burglary game some nine years on with Trance, a overly-heady, art-heist thriller with more twists and turns than the Trollstigen itself. Lucky for Boyle, he isn't actually driving the famed mountain roadway, he'd be precariously close to soaring over the side.
James McAvoy is Simon, a super-exclusive art auctioneer, gavelling the brushstrokes of Manet, Degas and Goya to billionaires with the burnable cash to snatch up the opulent oil paintings. Though there's a precise plan of protective action in place if when an attempted pilferage goes down, nothing overrides Simon's company's chief canon: "No work of art is worth a human life."

When the live fire arrives, Simon disregards that law and ends up receiving a brutal blow to the skull from Franck (Vincent Cassel), the guileful leader of the Van Gogh gangsters. Out go Simon's lights as Boyle's mind games begin.

Simon is suffering from amnesia, somewhat problematic seeing as he's key to recovering the purloined Goya. Enter saucy hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), trying to bust open Simon's brain and pinpoint where in the Carmen Sandiego the Goya is stashed.

Boyle brings forth the bang then throttles down to a plodding pace as Trance gets stuck in a rotary — going round and round with Simon professing his forgetfulness and Elizabeth pursuing the combo to crack his cranial safe.

Working from longtime collaborator John Hodge's serpentine script, Boyle dives down the rabbit hole with swerves and misdirections that become more and more nonsensical – convoluted – by the moment. Boyle has acknowledged reworking the ending — it's readily apparent.

But much like Harmony Korine's recent Spring Breakers, the aesthetics buoy the proceedings. Bathed in an orange glow, Trance sees Boyle once again decorating the screen with his crisp visuals — a noirish bent in his tenth big-screen outing. Few things look as sparkling – as now – as a Danny Boyle film.

Coupled with electronica god Rick Smith's hypnotic soundtrack (headlined by the lusher-than-a-rainforest "Here It Comes"), Trance puts you under its undeniably seductive spell. The film's sensory experience is too alluring to resist, Boyle salvaging his unduly swirly story with a slathering of his shimmering, sumptuous aesthetics. An entrancing piece of eye candy.