'Trance' is vivid, well done thriller

Rosario Dawson in Trance. (Fox)

Rosario Dawson in Trance. (Fox)

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:19 PM ET

If Inception bent reality not with technology, but via the old movie tropes of hypnosis and blow-to-the-head amnesia, it would be Danny Boyle's trippy art-heist thriller Trance.

And it would not suffer a whit in the telling.

A vivid, modern film noir full of slowly unfolding secrets and sexual tension, Trance begins with the heist in question, and some uncertainty as to whether the central character, Simon (James McAvoy) is in on it.

He's introduced - prior to the auction of a $50 million Goya - narrating the history of art-auction thefts, the evolution of security and the counter measures of the criminal world.

And then his words come true. Simon finds himself with the job of quickly securing the painting, as masked gunmen spray tear-gas among the rich auctioneers. Alas, he's met at the painting drop by one of the robbers, Franck (Vincent Cassel) and ends up in the hospital with head trauma for his troubles.

A few scenes later, he's tied to a chair being tortured for information he doesn't have. Seems the painting had been removed from the frame along the way.

All of this is preamble for the introduction of Trance's pivotal character, a clinical psychologist named Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), who's quick to figure out the real deal when Simon is brought in for memory retrieval.

Director Boyle puts a lot more store in the magical powers of hypnotism than reality would dictate. But in a movie world of superheroes and wizards, it's a small leap of faith. Elizabeth's introduction into the chemistry of crooks turns her into a shaper of reality. Once she's had a chance to "trance" them all, no one's experiences can be trusted (and the viewer can never be sure that what's being shown is "real").

All we know for sure is that she is in control, using hypnosis and sex in equal measure to play Simon and Franck off each other (you get to see an awful lot of her in this movie - Seth MacFarlane might want to update his Oscar song).

Boyle's stylized high-end London is a great backdrop for this story of greed-fueled insanity. Franck has an indoor swimming pool in his luxurious apartment that is key to the movie's denouement. Clearly, he didn't achieve his status in the criminal world by knocking over liquor stores.

But it's the combination of acting styles between Dawson and McAvoy that gives this mystery its steam. He is great at portraying earnest characters buffeted along by unfortunate events (though everyone is not what they seem in this movie).

And with or without hypnosis, Dawson commands attention. This is one of her best performances.

jim.slotek@sunmedia.ca

This film is rated 18A.


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