Director Danny Boyle established himself as one of the most versatile filmmakers in the world long ago, finding critical and commercial success with thematically disparate stories such as Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Slumdog Millionaire. In fact, it could be said that the Englishman’s hallmark is an almost systematic avoidance of genre elements he has already explored in previous films.
His new film Trance, which he and Producer Christian Colson (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) screened for the NBR on April 4th, is no exception. Once again collaborating with writer John Hodge (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting), Boyle tells the story of Simon (James McAvoy), an auctioneer at a high-end London firm that’s suffered a severe bump on the head and can’t remember a thing about the art heist he was (apparently) involved in executing. This does not sit well with mastermind criminal Franck (Vincent Cassel), who enlists the American hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) to aide in resurfacing Simon’s lost memories.
“I’ve always wanted to make a movie with a woman in the engine room”
Besides the mind-bending plot twists this set up gives rise to, one of the most fascinating things for Boyle was the focus on a female character. “I’ve always wanted to make a movie with a woman in the engine room,” said Boyle, referring to the way in with Dawsons’s character drives the film forward at every turn. Interestingly, the original plan called for the origins of the female character and the auction house to be reversed. “We wanted to set the film in Manhattan with a UK woman living here. She’d have no friends to call on for help,” Doyle noted. However, that became impossible due to scheduling constraints associated with Boyle’s Olympics commitment. As production progressed, though, Boyle quickly realized that they could set it in any city, because “cities are where crimes can happen and anonymity is available.”
More than anything else, Boyle “wanted to make a film for enjoyment… and this was an absolute joy to make.” Indeed, every choice in Trance (from casting, to production design, to photography) was meant to result in a sumptuous experience for the audience. From a shotgun-wielding, art-heisting, love-making Vincent Cassel to a refreshingly ruthless James McAvoy, Trance is not a subtle film, and makes no apologies for it. When every choice in a film is “designed to fill you with pleasure,” the audience need only sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.