I get excited for each new film from director Danny Boyle because they're all so distinct and daring. So many directors find success and follow it with similar films, but Boyle always seems to find something completely new, exciting and frequently experimental.
In the past decade he reinvented the zombie genre with “28 Days Later,” explored ethics through the eyes of a seven-year-old in “Millions” and crafted a heart-wrenching masterpiece in “Slumdog Millionaire” (for which he won the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture).
He could have made anything he wanted after “Slumdog,” regardless of the budget. Yet he chose to make a low-budget film about a rock climber — alone in the middle of the desert — whose arm gets trapped under a boulder.
I wasn't even sure Boyle could make a one-man show about a guy cutting his arm off entertaining, but my preconceptions were completely wrong. I thought “127 Hours” would be a gruesome survival tale, but instead found a life-affirming story about strength and perseverance (also the best film of 2010).
Boyle's new film, “Trance,” is a gritty, sexy psychological thriller that I loved for many of the same reasons I've loved watching Boyle's career. It's completely unpredictable, swerving madly all over the map from an art heist to one hell of a fantastic ending sequence. A couple days after I saw “Trance,” a friend asked me what it was about and, after thinking for a few moments, I realized that explaining the film's plot would take serious effort (especially if I was going to avoid any spoilers).
There really isn't much I can tell you, either, since Boyle and writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge supply a steady stream of surprises right up until the end.
The film relies on three great performances. James McAvoy (“Wanted”), as Simon, is very effective as the seemingly likeable average Joe who gets caught up with a rough crowd. Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”) gives his best performance to date as Franck (no clue why it's spelled that way), the seemingly unlikable ring leader of the aforementioned wrong crowd.
Rosario Dawson (“Seven Pounds”) steals every scene she's in as Elizabeth, a hypnotherapist tasked with extracting subconscious information that will lead to the goods stolen in the opening art heist (like I said, things get complicated). It's a flawless, nuanced performance that's so subtle you won't even realize how important her first few scenes are until much later in the film.
I imagine that people will enjoy re-watching her performance in the same way people enjoyed watching Bruce Willis in “The Sixth Sense” the second time around.
Every aspect of the production is top-notch — which I've come to expect from a Danny Boyle film. I was especially impressed with Anthony Dod Mantle's photography, which is just colorful enough to give the film a surreal feel, but also dark and gritty enough to keep it from feeling other-worldly. I hope that description makes sense.
As much as I'd like to continue saying nice things about this wonderful film, I can't think of any good reasons to continue. Because if you've read this far, well, I truly hope you've already opened another window in your Web browser to determine when the next show begins.
“Trance” is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence, some grisly images and language.