Apr 12, 2013


Grade: B+

Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Screenplay: Joe Ahearne, John Hodge (Trainspotting)

Cast: James McAvoy (The Last Station), Rosario Dawson (Zookeeper)

Rating: R

Runtime: 101 min. by John DeSando

“The choice is yours. Do you want to remember or do you want to forget?” Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson)

I’m trying to remember what movie Trance reminds me of, so maybe I need hypnotherapy to help me. But then with Rosario Dawson as my therapist, I’d forget everything. Just kidding: Danny Boyle’s frenetic crime thriller, Trance, is a cousin to Christopher Nolan’s Inception and a second cousin to Memento.

Trance is about memory and amnesia: Simon (James McAvoy), an auction house employee, is involved in stealing a Goya worth millions and unable to remember what he did with it; his co-conspirators are not happy with that outcome. The ever-creative Danny Boyle, in a very different world from Slumdog Millionaire and even Trainspotting, peppers this thriller with just enough hypnosis theory (Simon seeks help from therapist Elizabeth—a distracting Rosario Dawson fully frontally nude at one point) to make it a cerebral league ahead of other psychological potboilers today. Elizabeth wanting in on the deal complicates the plot considerably.

Besides keeping us guessing at each twist, Boyle uses fancy camera angles and bright coloring—especially red—to emphasize the metaphoric subtexts and reinforce the dreamlike state of several setups. No stranger to violence, as in 28 Days Later, Boyle uses co-conspirator Franck (Vincent Cassel) as the embodiment of attractive evil, a sexy guy with a brain. No stranger to beauty, as in Slumdog, Boyle uses Dawson to suggest hidden desires in the deep recesses of the subconscious. The combination works with and on Simon, who himself embodies the ambivalences of intellect and emotion.

All in all, Trance has an amusingly contradictory plot that will keep you guessing. Just don’t expect logic to lead you to answers.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel. Contact him at